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Beauty and the Beets

Text by: Nanette Steimle

If food was merely a fuel for our bodies, would we really have the kind of beautiful colors, textures, and flavors available that we do? Think of the deep, staining purple of a beet; the gentle folds of a browned piecrust; the soft, white peaks billowing in whipped cream; the warm, brown glow of cooking caramel; the perfect black char marks on some fresh, grilled fish; and the fantastic; orange glow of cheddar cheese. All of these tantalizing adjectives, used to describe food, help to create a beautiful, edible experience, as we sit at the table.

I remember the first time I discovered how beautiful food can be — I was in awe. I was creating a recipe for "Coconut Chicken with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce." I had the purchased ingredients laid out before me, and with apron on, I set out on this chicken journey. I followed each step carefully, turning on my grill and roasting the red bell pepper. I skinned it and then dropped the whole pepper into my blender. I added a few other ingredients, like lemon, pepper, and salt, turned it on, and watched this gorgeous, deep red sauce come alive. This wasn't from a can or a jar! I created my very own roasted, red bell pepper sauce with a gorgeous red bell pepper that I, myself, had roasted. It may sound obvious, but it felt very profound to me.

Take the time to experience the adjectives of food. Appreciate each ingredient's smell, taste, color, and texture. And let the beauty come alive in the things you cook and eat.

Crisp Coconut Chicken with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 whole skinless boneless lg. chicken breast (about 10 oz.), halved
  • All-purpose flour seasoned with salt and black pepper for dredging chicken
  • An egg wash made by beating 1 lg. egg with 1 tsp. water
  • 1 c. sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. dry sherry

Preparation:

In a blender, puree the bell pepper with the lemon juice, sugar, cayenne, oil, and salt and pepper to taste until the sauce is smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic paste, ginger, and mustard and spread the mixture onto both sides of the chicken.

In separate bowls, have ready the seasoned flour, egg wash and coconut. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess, dip it in egg wash, letting the excess drip off, and coat it thoroughly with coconut, pressing the coconut to make it adhere.

In a large oven-proof skillet, heat the butter over moderately high heat until the foam subsides and in it saute the chicken for 2 minutes on each side, or until the coconut is golden. Add the sherry, transfer the skillet to a preheated 375 degree oven, and bake the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is just cooked through. Divide the sauce between 2 large plates and arrange the chicken on it. Serves 2.