Monday, May 4, 2009

Balsamic Onion, Dried Cranberry, Arugula Stuffed Chicken Breast

All aboard the crazy train to flavor town! Sometimes I have serious self-doubts. About all things. Including my ability as a cook. I wonder if it is really only me that thinks me recipes are delicious or if I am really actually reaching anyone with my healthy gourmet food. Simple, nutritious and delicious. Over the weekend, I got a nice reminder that what I am doing is reaching people and I was super encouraged by hearing that several people are eagerly awaiting a cookbook from me. Cool! I wanted to mention that all of my 2008 recipes are compiled in a Tastebook which you can order through the link on the left hand sidebar. I am working on getting all my new recipes added as soon as I post them on my blog in case you want to add those to the 2008 stuff. Tastebook is great for that, since you get to select what recipes you want or don't want in your book! I am working on a real cookbook proposal currently and hope to get that project off the ground as soon as I can.

I had planned to cook last night after my friends left San Francisco after their 100k race on Saturday, but I started to crave sushi so badly last night I could hardly contain myself. I opted to go to Sushi Ran instead of cooking. If you think marinating is good for the flavor food, it is even better for your ideas sometimes. If I had cooked this last night, it wouldn't have been nearly as good as it was today. And let me tell you. It was freaking fantastic.

As I mentioned in my blog about Sushi Ran, the chef used Five Spice in a very interesting way, incorporating it into the Spicy Tuna Roll. When I was thinking about my side dish for the meal I created today, I needed an ingredient that would counter some of the inherent sweetness of the coconut oil and butternut squash. Five Spice! While my onions were caramelizing, I went to the store and picked some up. I decided to add a dash of cayenne pepper to the Smashed Coconut Butternut Squash since the five spice blend I picked up did not have a hot element in it (as Five Spice blends vary). What resulted was a very interesting flavor curve. When the squash hits your mouth, you register slight coconut, the smoothness of the squash and bit of the anise and clove. Seconds later as it slides across your palate, the very slight heat of the cayenne registers and while supremely subtle is pleasantly surprising. This dish went perfectly with my truly inspired dish: Balsamic Onion, Dried Cranberry, Arugula Stuffed Chicken Breast.

I had the combination in mind for the Balsamic Onion, Dried Cranberry, Arugula Stuffed Chicken Breast after a salad with similar ingredients at homegrown a few weeks ago. It was a great flavor profile for a salad and I was keen to see if I could wrap it up into an elegant dish, or even better, make it better. And again, this is one of those moments I thank my lucky stars for my running (and for the overnight marinating on the idea) since on my run today, I came up with the mind-blowing improvement factor: a combination of blackberry ginger sauce and balsamic vinegar in the caramelized onions. Blackberry Ginger sauce is not easy to find. In fact, I had never heard of it until one day walking along after coffee with my dad through Sausalito we spotted some locally made Blackberry Ginger Jam and went in to buy some. We found the sauce as well as the jam and I have been sitting on it for a few months now unopened (though the jam was devoured quite promptly). Last night I opened the sauce to drizzle a bit over my almond milk ice cream and so the seed was planted for its use in today's dish. The sauce itself is about the thickness of vinegar and is not overly sweet. It is just right and while it did notch the dish up a spell, I would say that 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar instead of one of each of the Blackberry Ginger sauce and balsamic would do just fine.  Unlike in my salad of inspiration, the combining of the ingredients into a single package commingles them and sets them off, each intensifying and working together to provide an incredibly balanced dish. I had been afraid that it would be too sweet and instead, it was excitingly even. There was a bit of heat from the chili powder, tartness from the cranberries, a bit of spiciness from the arugula, savory from the sage, sweetness from the onions and the chicken was perfectly wrapped and unified all the ingredients. This recipe is a shout out to all of you who read and enjoy my recipes, thanks so much for your support. I strive to create dishes that you enjoy, fuel your bodies healthfully and inspire you! Happy eating!

Balsamic Onion, Dried Cranberry, Arugula Stuffed Chicken Breast


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced
1 tbsp. blackberry ginger sauce
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 chicken breasts, skinless, butterflied
1 ½ cups arugula, rinsed
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ tsp dried sage
dash chili powder


For the carmelized onions: Heat 1 tbsp over medium high heat in a skillet. Add sliced onions and stir to coat in oil. Cook over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and cover. Let sweat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally or not (if you used a non-skillet pan). After 20 minutes, remove lid and add blackberry ginger sauce (if you can find it) and balsamic vinegar (double the amount of balsamic vinegar if you can't find blackberry ginger sauce) and crank heat up to medium high again. Let the vinegar/blackberry sauce reduce and further carmelize the onions. Remove onions from pan and set aside. Note: Do not clean the skillet, just set aside as you will cook the chicken in it and want to keep the flavorful bits in the pan from the onions.

Working on a clean surface, take butterflied chicken breast and cover with parchment or plastic wrap. Using a heavy skillet, pound the chicken until flattened (but still in tact). Remove parchment or plastic. On one half of the chicken breast place arugula, dried cranberries and 2 heaping TBSP of carmelize onions. Fold the other side of the chicken on top (like a sandwich), making sure not to overstuff. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with sage, salt and pepper and just a dash of chili powder. In the skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Carefully transfer the stuffed chicken breasts to the skillet, placing the seasoned side face down. Spice the other side with sage, salt and pepper and chili powder. After 4-5 minutes cooking on the first time, flip (carefully) and brown the other side. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes over medium high heat and then cover and reduce heat to medium, medium low. 5 more minutes of cooking or so until cooked. Remove from heat.

Plate over remaining arugula, top with extra balsamic onions and dried cranberries. Enjoy!

Smashed Coconut Butternut Squash


1 large butternut squash , roasted, until fork tender
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tsp dried orange peel
1 tsp five spice
¼ tsp cayenne


Roast butternut squash until fork tender. I recommend peeling and cutting the squash into chunks and roasting on parchment paper/baking sheet with a hit of salt for 35-45 minutes, until tender. Once squash is roasted, place in a large bowl and mash with remaining ingredients, adjusting the salt to your taste.


  1. Well, I was one of those people asking about your cookbook so I'll definitely have to check out the tastebook. Of course, given my limited time for cooking, what I really wanted to tell you was that you need to just fall in love with the Bay Area, move here and open up a restaurant :-)

  2. This sounds perfect. Really hungry now!

  3. Thank you for your blog and pictures. You are an inspiration to those of us who are in need of special needs solution's (gluten free, diabetic, non-dairy, flavor.. etc.). The Planet Green's Emeril Green show is probably the only other resource that I have found but it only includes recipes. Thanks for all your hard work, your specialty and journey, as a Chef is a wonderful help; your running accomplishments are amazing. What a shame it would be not to be able to learn from your blog, because no one told you just how special this blog is. In the webosphere – There are many websites with recipes, and many Chefs who (have restaurants that) post from time to time. The Food Network has tons of recipes, but we do not know what recipes have actually been prepared, versus a stylist has prepared them. We rarely see anyone with the journey that you are taking. Thank You, this blog is a delight for so many. Keep up the great work...You are making an incredible difference.

  4. Ty B, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I truly appreciate what you said and am so pleased that I can bring joy and good eats to people. I am happy that I can share my journey with you and have it be useful to you. Thank you and please let me know if there is anything you'd like to see or prepared and I would happily try!

  5. OK, tried it out tonight. Worked quite well, not too difficult. Our own variation was to add coconut (in addition to the coconut oil) to the butternut squash, and a little marsala to the browned bits in the pan at the end. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  6. Sounds like some great additions Cynthia. I had actually considered adding shredded coconut to it but didn\\'t have any on hand! Awesome!


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