The Best Salmon Spread

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Another salmon spread? There are so many out there, and I even have a few on this blog, but I love salmon in all forms. What makes this spread different is that both grilled salmon and smoked salmon are used, and it’s served warm.

So it’s not just a cream cheese mixed with bits of smoked salmon, or rillettes, or a layered concoction. (All of which are wonderful!) It’s a warm, delightfully sensorally captivating salmon spread.

It’s not terribly pretty. In fact, it’s probably best used for canapés. But if you’re not serving the Queen of England, it’s perfect to serve alongside pumpernickel bread or crackers to normal folks.

Double Salmon Spread

3 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon filets
Old Bay seasoning
10 ounces smoked salmon (lox), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup drained small capers
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Chives or dill leaves, optional

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. A little browning of the butter is fine. Sprinkle salmon filets with Old Bay.


Add the filets to the skillet and sauté until barely opaque in the center, turning over halfway through cooking. Remove the skin if they aren’t skinless.

Using a spatula, flake the cooked salmon into bits that aren’t too small.

Meanwhile, weigh out the smoked salmon and chop it. Place in a mixing bowl.

Add the capers, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice.

Then stir in everything from the skillet, including the warm butter. Gently stir and combine the ingredients well. Taste for seasoning.

To serve as canapés, spread a generous amount of the salmon mixture on each toast, and top with a dill sprig or chopped chives.

If preferred, serve the dip in a bowl on a serving platter surrounded by your favorite toasts and crackers.


The most important thing with this spread is that it’s served warm. Then you really get all of the flavors from the cooked and smoked salmon.

If you’re not a big fan of the generous amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream, simple reduce the amounts to 1/3 cup each.

If I’d made this in the summer, I would have used fresh dill on top of the spread, but chives will have to suffice for now!

Meyer Lemon Pots de Crème

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When I was little, I used to love playing with my mother’s pots de crème set. I loved the dainty handled pots with the cute knobbed lids. These were way more fun than a tea set.

I remember her pots de crème well. It was silky smooth, mild in flavor, and just seemed to hit the spot. It was such a delight lifting up the little hat and be greeted with the creamy goodness inside.

Recently when I was reorganizing, I came across this set that she passed on to me, and realized I’d only made pots de crème once since I’ve been married. It was time to make it again.

I decided on a Meyer lemon version, just because I tend to not make lemonny desserts often, and it’s springtime. So I created a recipe.

Unfortunately, this post should be titled, “Do Not Make This Recipe.” My dessert bombed. Big time.

I have no idea what went wrong. There are so many factors with baking, and fortunately I don’t claim to be a baker. But I hate the fact that my blog is supposed to get people in the kitchen cooking, and then I present a failure.

Nonetheless I’m posting this anyway, mostly to show off the beautiful set, which I had a ball photographing! Following is a recipe not to use.

Meyer Lemon Pots de Crème

2 3/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
Zest of 4 Meyer lemons
10 large egg yolks, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
4 ounces sour cream, at room temperature

Place cream in an saucepan and heat slowly just to a light simmer. Add the zest and stir gently.

Let the cream steep with the zest for a few minutes, then turn off the heat but leave the cream sit for one hour. Set aside

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Using an electric mixer, beat yolks, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until pale yellow, about 2 minutes.

Bring the lemonny cream to a simmer, and immediately but gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture.  Whisk in the sour cream.

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium pitcher with a pouring spout.

Divide the custard among ramekins; cover each with a lid (or foil) and place in a large roasting pan.  Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. So far so good. Maybe.


Bake until just set in center, abour 25 minutes.

I had no idea this custard would rise like a souflé! Uncover and chill until cold, about 3 hours. At this point the custard looked a little overbaked, but not bad… yet.

My little pots are only a 4 ounce capacity.

Then, the custards fell. I tried to cover it up with flowers but the flowers weren’t big enough! You can see the shrinkage. And, the custard was mealy, although I have to say that the lemon flavor was good.

This recipe made approximately 48 ounces of custard. Since I only had the little pots’ total capacity of 32 ounces, I used two ramekins for the remaining custard. I tried to decorate with candied lemon peel, but that wasn’t pretty at all.

Because I used zest for this recipe, I had 4 whole lemons leftover. I trimmed up the pith, blended them as is, added beets and beet juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt for a lovely lemon beet dressing!

So the day wasn’t a total disaster!

 

 

Pistachio Feta Dip

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Pistachios add a beautiful emerald-green to holiday foods like Christmas bark and festive biscotti, but what about the really green holiday – St. Patrick’s Day?!!

Maybe I’m just really into color – I’ve certainly been accused of that – but I saw this dip online and just knew I’d be making it for St. Patrick’s day, on March 17th, 2018. Way more fun than Irish stew, and you can still enjoy your green beer.

I’m basing my recipe on the one from The Lemon Apron, a gorgeous blog by young Jennifer, who believes in “rustic, indulgent, and healthy home cooking.”

She got the original recipe from the book Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour.

What I especially loved about this dip is that there is no TAHINI or CHICK PEAS in it!!! Hummus is wonderful, but there are other dips out there.

Case in point – this one is a beautiful purée of pistachios, along with feta and yogurt. YUM!

Pistachio Feta Dip
Slightly Adapted
Printable recipe below

3 1/2 oz (100 g) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
7 oz (approx 200 g) feta cheese
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 ounces Greek yogurt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blitz the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Add the feta, parsley, garlic, chile pepper, yogurt and lemon.

Blitz until the mixture is well combined and has a rustic texture and place in a serving dish. I drizzled some olive oil over the top.

Serve with warmed focaccia or flat bread, pita crackers, crackers, or crostini.

I used Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips because they’re so delicious.

I realized after-the-fact that if I’d removed the brown, thin skins from the pistachios, the dip would have been greener. But oh well. You will still be addicted!

There isn’t one thing I don’t absolutely love about this dip. I’ll be making it again, even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: In the original recipe, dill and cilantro are both used. I made an executive decision to just use parsley, because I wanted this dip to be more generic in flavor, in order to match it with other hors d’oeuvres I was serving.

I noticed that Jen spread the dip on toast and topped it with an egg! Yeah!!! (her photo below)

 

 

Herby Octopus Salad with Blueberries

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You’ve all put up with me lamenting about the fact that, living in the middle of the United States, with no nearby coastline, I can’t buy fresh seafood. And it’s pretty much my favorite thing to eat, well over beef and chicken.

I make up for it when on vacation, especially when it comes to squid and octopus. I eat them until tentacles are practically coming out my ears.

Besides being delicious, they’re fascinating creatures.

Instead of whining, I decided it was time to just order some frozen baby octopus. I actually see it frozen occasionally in recipes, so I’m not the only person who can’t always buy it fresh, or wants it out of season.

The company I ordered from is La Tienda, a Spanish website that I’ve used for years. Just about any Spanish product you desire, they sell.

It was a fluke that I found frozen octopus; I didn’t expect La Tienda to have it. I also bought some frozen cuttlefish at the same time – something I’d never tried before – at least not knowingly.

When I received the pound of baby octopus, there were only two, so about 8 ounces each, shown above. I expected baby octopuses to look like ones I’ve had on salads or seen at markets.

But it gave me the opportunity to learn how to break down an octopus. It’s a very straight-forward procedure, and takes minutes.

Herby Octopus Salad with Blueberries
Cause it’s still summer here….

1 pound frozen baby octopus, thawed
Olive oil
Greens of choice
Chopped basil, parsley, and cilantro, about 1/2 cup total
Fresh blueberries, about 1/2 cup
Lemon juice (I used 1 lemon for 1 pound of octopus)
Olive juice, to taste
Salt
Aleppo pepper, optional

Rinse the octopus well and lay on a cutting board. Admire it, because it’s a beautiful sea creature!

Slice just below the eyes, and just above the eyes and discard this middle piece.


Then get rid of the beak in the middle of the tentacles.


Turn the head, or hood, inside out. Pull out everything from inside, and discard.

Turn the hood back to outside-in. There is a thin skin covering the hood that can be removed by pulling firmly.

Cut the tentacles off at the very top.

Trim the base of the hood, then slice the remaining hood into 1/4″ thick slices.

With the remaining center “upper thighs”, if you will, cut them each into 8 pie pieces.

From the left, the legs, the hood, and the upper thighs.

The below photo shows the legs at the top, the hood rings in the middle, and the thighs at the bottom.

Rinse the octopus parts, if necessary, then dry them well.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Over high heat and with your vent on, and perhaps a few open doors and windows, sear some of the octopus, without crowding it in the skillet, until browned. I cooked the legs, rings, and thighs separately, just because of the various thicknesses.

Remove to a plate and continue in batches; set aside.

Meanwhile, place the greens on a platter or plate.


In a small bowl, toss together the herbs and top the salad with the herbs.


Add the octopus parts, still warm, and the blueberries to the salad.


Drizzle on some fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle on a little salt.

If desired, add some Aleppo pepper for some zing!

And that’s it! The octopus was superb. All it takes is a little searing.

A simple combination of lemon juice and olive was wonderful. And the blueberries added fruitiness. The salad would also be good with warmed lentils.

I was very happy about the quality of the frozen octopus. It wasn’t old or water-logged.

At least I know now that I don’t need to turn up my nose at frozen octopus in the future. I will indeed be ordering it again.

I just have to find someone else to share it with…

And anyone who assumes that octopus is tough and rubbery, hasn’t tried it. (husband)

Salmon Crudo

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Facebook is something I check on a daily basis. There, I said it. Mostly because I can keep up with friends and their families. But it’s truly entertaining as well, like when puppy-chimpanzee videos pop up on my feed.

And then there are the food-related posts, not surprisingly, like this one that recently showed up from Williams-Sonoma Taste, which is the W-S blog.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers. What? I’ve never heard of salmon crudo, which in Italian means raw salmon. So I knew I just had to make it.

Fortunately, I happened upon a fresh piece of wild salmon at my grocery store. It was like this was all meant to be!

Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers

1/2 pound fresh sushi-grade salmon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

First wrap the rinsed and dried salmon in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, skin the salmon, then slice the it against the grain into very thin slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, overlapping them slightly.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Carefully add the capers to the oil; they will splatter.

Fry, swirling the pan gently to move the capers around until they are golden brown, 30-60 seconds. Transfer the capers to a paper towel-lined plate, and let the olive oil cool for 5 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and parsley to the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified.

Arrange the red onion on top of the salmon and drizzle with the dressing. I also added some extra fresh parsley.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Scatter the capers on top and serve with lemon wedges.

The recipe serves four people.

Or one, in my case.

I enjoyed the salmon crudo on water crackers. And a little salt was definitely necessary.

I can honestly say that eating this salmon was an incredible experience. I’d have it any day over sashimi, and I love sashimi.

A Sunday Supper

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Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a James Beard Foundation award-winning cookbook by Suzanne Goin, published in 2005. The actual name is, Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table.

I wanted to purchase one of her cookbooks just because she’s so highly revered as a chef, and all of her culinary endeavors have been highly acclaimed and successful.

Her first restaurant, Lucques, was opened in 1998. I’m a little behind getting to “know” this talented chef, but I don’t visit Los Angeles, so have missed out experiencing its famous dining spots. After all these years, Lucques is still a quintessential West Hollywood dining spot.

The cookbook is really fun. Although I pride myself on menu planning, Ms. Goin puts meals together for the reader. And they’re fun meals.

So the one I’m making for this post is Bistecca California with Peperonata, Baked Ricotta, and Lemon.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Here are the recipes for the elements of this fantastic Sunday supper!

Steak

3 pounds prime beef or steak of your choice
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chiles de arbol
2 lemons, zested, then juiced
2 scant tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 bunch arugula
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Trim the beef, if necessary. Season with the rosemary, sliced chile, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

An outside charcoal grill can be used to cook the steak(s). I opted for cooking my filet mignons in a skillet on the stove. They were cooked medium-rare.

Rest the steak(s) for 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon the hot Peperonata (recipe below) onto a large warm platter and scatter the arugula over the top.

Slice the steak against the grain and arrange it over the peppers.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the meat, and drizzle it with a few tablespoons of oil. Serve the gratin dish of baked ricotta (recipe below) on the side.


Baked Ricotta


3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (1 1/3 lbs.)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon diagonally sliced chile de arbol
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the ricotta in a large bowl, and stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, the chopped parsley, 1//2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer the ricotta to an 8-inch gratin dish. Gently press the top of the cheese with your fingers to make slight indentations, and decorate the ricotta with the remaining thyme and the sliced chile.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Peperonata

4 large sweet peppers (1 3/4 lbs.)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced red onion
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Thinly slice the peppers lengthwise. Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, peppers, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sauté over high heat 5 to 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers soften. They should still have a little crunch to them but be tender.

Add the capers and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, cook another minute, and transfer the peppers to a shallow nonreactive dish.

Turn the heat off, add the vinegar, and reduce by half. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the vinegar over the peppers. Add the oregano, and toss well to combine.

This was a really nice meal. I loved all of the aspects of it, but the lemon zest and rosemary on the steaks was a superb combination. I also added cayenne pepper flakes. And I will definitely make the baked ricotta again, even for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

Mediterranean Layered Dip

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A while back my friend had a happy hour at her house, and she served a Mediterranean-inspired dip. She’s a funny person, my friend. She claims to hate cooking, but she always serves the best and prettiest food, and even offers signature cocktails.

She’s also an expert at entertaining – to the point that once she had pressed fresh flowers between glass plates for a spring girls’ lunch at her home. I think she’s in Martha-Stewart-wanna-be denial…

Most of us are familiar with the 7-layer dip; sometimes the number varies. It’s Mexican, or Mexican-American, and typically contains layers of refried beans, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, maybe seasoned ground beef, and so forth. If you love all of those ingredients, then you would love the dip, served with tortilla chips and margaritas.

My creative friend, however, was inspired by a recipe she’d seen in a magazine, and created a multi-layered dip using Mediterranean ingredients. It was fabulous.

We can’t find the recipe, so I’m creating this version with my own favorite ingredients from that part of the world. Whatever you use, you just can’t go wrong.

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Mediterranean Layered Dip

White bean dip, or hummus, preferably home-made
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Goat or feta cheese
Kalamata olives, sliced
Toasted pine nuts
Diced shallots
Pita pockets

Begin with having a plate or shallow bowl for serving. Place the white bean dip or hummus on the serving dish. I have had decent store-bought hummus, but I simply made a garlicky white bean dip. Smooth out the white bean dip.


Prepare the cucumber by removing the seeds. This can be done with a knife, or simply with a melon baller or small spoon. Cut up the cucumber and place on paper towels to drain.


Prepare the tomatoes by de-seeding them as much as possible, then cutting them finely, and placing them on paper towels to drain. Have all of the other ingredients on hand.


Begin the layering process by adding the cucumber and then the tomatoes.
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Add the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.
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Then add the olives, pine nuts and shallots.

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Serve with pita triangles cut from pita breads. Alternatively, half the triangles, drizzle with olive oil, and toast until lightly browned for a crisper pita “chip.” (The photo below right shows the pita triangles halved, but not yet toasted.)


It was a hot day when I made this dip, so I served a rosé.
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The fun wth this recipe, is that you can substitute ingredients as you wish. Capers instead of olives, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes, grilled artichokes, and more.

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You can top the dip with black pepper, oregano, sumac, za’atar, or a chiffonade of fresh basil.


Just stick with Mediterranean ingredients and you’ll love it!

Food with Friends

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“It’s experiences and laughs that matter most, not the most perfectly executed food, so relax a little, embrace the imperfect…”
9780804187091
When I read these words in the introduction of “Food with Friends” – the art of simple gatherings, I knew I had a new friend of sorts, author Leela Cyd.

Thanks to Blogging for Books, I was gifted this book, of my choosing, for review. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I initially was attracted to the book because of its title. Food with my friends is my favorite kind of food, after all. And with family, too, of course.

And it’s embarrassing to admit how often I use the word “party.” A daughter comes to town – we have a party. A girlfriend comes over – another party. Another couple come over – PARTY!!! I concur that food is about experiences and especially laughter. I only hang out with people who laugh.

The introduction in “Food with Friends” is quite impressive. Leela has traveled the world, living abroad for months at a time, and her passion for international cuisines are reflected in this collection of recipes.

Her love of cooking and sharing her food with friends is obvious in the inspirational photos. She claims that “The best gatherings are simple, yet somehow special.” I couldn’t agree more!

I’ve already bookmarked many recipes in this beautiful and fun cookbook. The recipe I chose to make from it is her Lemon-Poppy-Seed Dutch Baby.

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Lemon-Poppy-Seed Dutch Baby
serves 4

Dutch Baby
3 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond meal
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Topping
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Lemon wedges, for squeezing

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 10-inch pie pan (glass or metal) or cast-iron skillet on a baking sheet onto the middle rack of the oven.

In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, almond meal, nutmeg, salt, poppy seeds, and vanilla. Whizz on high speed for about 30 seconds, until everything is combined in a runny batter. (It will be looser than traditional American pancake batter, more similar to crepe batter.)

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Remove the heated pie pan or skillet from the oven and add the butter, swirling a little, until it has melted completely and the sides and bottom are completely coated.
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Pour in the batter and return the pan to the oven.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden brown.

Dust with sifted powdered sugar, then top with lemon zest and 1 teaspoon poppyseeds.

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Invite each guest to squeeze lemon juice onto their slices.

Note: I personally don’t understand squeezing lemon juice on a Dutch baby because that would make it “wet.” I chose to include the lemon zest in the batter.

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Another note: Even without any sugar added, this Dutch Baby is sweet and light. You can eat it with a fork or just grab a slice and chomp away!

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Persillade

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Parsley in French is persil, so it’s not surprising that persillade is a parsley sauce, combining the freshness of parsley, with butter, garlic, and lemon. It is also called Sauce Persil.

Personally, I love all of the green sauces, like pesto, gremolata, and chimichurri, so I knew I’d love persillade.

I was inspired to make it because of my friend Stéphane’s blog My French Heaven, specifically the post is entitled “The Power of Love, Laughter, and Persillade.” (It’s one of my favorites!)

image

On that post he has a recipe for grilled scallops with persillade, but it’s a wonderful addition to not only seafood but meat and poultry as well. I’m making it for roast lamb.

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Parsley, I feel is really an underused and appreciated herb, having filled the role in fine cuisine as primarily a decoration. But I use it in just about everything – vinaigrettes, pestos, marinades, and so forth.

There are many variations for persillade, I discovered. What I’ve noticed mostly is the use of olive oil instead of butter, and either lemon zest, lemon juice, or no lemon. But the parsley and garlic are always clearly the main players.

p1

Here’s what I did.

Persillade

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, patted dry
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
Squeeze of lemon

Place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and process. Add 3 ounces of melted butter and the salt and process, but don’t over process. You want to see the parsley and garlic bits.

Place the remaining butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Stir in the persillade and give the mixture a good stir, and once you smell the garlic, remove the saucepan from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon.

Serve immediately so the butter stays warm and melted. It’s challenging to keep the parsley and garlic in suspension in the butter, so the persillade ends up looking like a green blob.

With scallops and shrimp, they can be tossed in the persillade. I served the persillade with lamb slices and roasted tomatoes.

p4

Stéphane claims that no one really loves escargots. It’s all about the persillade. He might be right!

Capered Butter Sauce

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I first came across this sauce with a recipe called Meatballs with Caper Butter Sauce. I followed the recipe and was really impressed with the sauce. As with many great recipes – ridiculously easy and delicious!

I could see this sauce not only on meatballs, but on any kind of fish, over filet mignons, and boiled potatoes. But today I thought I’d try it with chicken breasts.

Capered Butter Sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup capers, well drained

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; you don’t want to brown it.

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Once it’s melted, add the lemon juice and capers.

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Heat through, then place in a bowl for serving and keep warm.

caper

I served the sauce over chicken, and with steamed broccoli as a side. A simple, but flavorful meal.

I had already cooked the chicken breasts sous vide the previous day, and when I got them out of the refrigerator they looked like this:

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I added some butter and a pinch of paprika to a skillet and heated the butter over fairly high heat. Then I browned the chicken breasts on both sides.

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When everything was ready, I placed one chicken breast on a plate topped with some of the warm caper butter sauce, and placed the steamed broccoli on the side. The broccoli was good with the sauce, too!
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