Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A little help

Last weekend I was finally feeling motivated to cook and photograph food again. One slight problem: I was feeling extremely uncreative and unimaginative. Thankfully, I had a little help…

Earlier in the day, we had taken some really good shots of carrot soup that I was more than pleased with. And when a photo session goes well and the food is cooperating, it always makes me want to do more. (Don’t ask about the times that the photography goes all wrong…it ends with one very cranky and usually very sweaty Karen, swearing off food photography forever.) But when dinnertime rolled around, as much as I wanted to cook and photograph another dish, I had a complete mental block. The big part, red pepper sauce over chicken, had been decided but that was all I had. Hoping that something would come to me, I went out to our very own garden to pick peppers.

An aside: Saying that I’m going “out to our very own garden to pick peppers” never gets old. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. Every time I go out to snip herbs or a pepper, I announce it to the household. If Andy isn’t in the room, no matter…the animals are listening, right?

Back to dinner: With a pile of peppers in front of me, but no real plan, I started chopping and rattling off ideas of what else I might throw in the pot. Andy had that look on his face like he didn’t really agree with any of my suggestions, and honestly, I wasn’t really buying what I was selling either. And then, very casually and like it was so obvious, Andy suggested cumin and coriander. D’oh! Why didn’t I think of that?! Later he suggested a sour cream-lime drizzle “to not only cool off the dish, but also to add some color variation for the photos.” (His words…see why I love him??) And then, to literally top it all off, let’s add chopped cilantro, he says. I was ready to just hand the apron over to him…

Once the sauce was finished, Andy barbecued the chicken and I started to plate the dish. We fussed with it for a few minutes and ran to take photos, hoping it would be an “easy” dish and we could eat a hot meal. After a few less than great shots, I looked at Andy with that look that he now knows to mean “please help right this very second or I’m going to go off the deep-end.” He stepped in front of me, took probably the fewest shots we’ve ever needed to take, and ended up with some of our best photographs yet. In fact, I spent a lot of dinner just ogling them and smiling.

Red Pepper Sauce over Chicken

Makes 1 1/2 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped assorted red peppers (sweet and/or spicy)*
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup chicken broth

barbecued chicken breasts
chopped cilantro

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots until soft, add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds. Add chopped peppers and stir to combine. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in all spices, sauté for about 5 more minutes until soft. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes until broth is reduced by about half.

Transfer pepper mixture and all liquid to a blender. Blend until completely smooth. (Add a little more broth to thin out sauce, if desired.)

*Note: The spice level of this sauce is easy to control…add as many or as few spicy red peppers as you want. For my mix, I used a combination of red poblanos, red bell peppers and 4 red Fresno chiles (seeds and all), which made it quite spicy.

Sour Cream-Lime Drizzle

1/4 cup sour cream
2-3 tablespoons lime juice

Whisk together sour cream and lime.

Serve red pepper sauce over chicken with sour cream-lime drizzle and cilantro.

This is a very flavorful (especially when it’s spicy), very versatile sauce. It was perfect over tender barbecued chicken breasts, but I think it would be just as good over steak or halibut, or even used as a dipping sauce for shrimp. Overall, it has a robust red pepper taste, but hints of cumin and coriander make it layered and interesting. The sour cream drizzle does the trick to soothe some of the spice and the cilantro adds brightness.

So I went from completely uninspired to having this meal in under an hour, complete with great photos. The Beatles said it well, “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…” Or in this case, with a whole lot of help from my husband.

Apparently the cat wanted in on some of this action too. It was that good (or she's that bad).


  1. Absolutely stunning and vibrant! Oh, thanks for pointing that out...going to your own garden to pick produce NEVER gets old!

  2. STUNNING PHOTOS and i love the commentary about sharing the cooking and planning. Andy sounds like a gem!

    And a great use for my beloved rotisserie chickens!

  3. The sauce looks wonderfully red. Do you think it would work on salmon?

  4. Wow that dish is just gorgeous! I love the colors and your man was right, that extra sour cream drizzle adds the perfect touch!

  5. Love this recipe for the sauce, and I think the photos look great!

  6. Whatever inspired your meal, the dish looks gorgeous!

  7. this chicken dish looks great! love your photos!

  8. I have been wanting to start my own little garden for my recipes...but I don't have much of a green thumb. I need a little help too =)

  9. Gorgeous! The brilliant red color of that sauce is so pretty. I don't cook with red peppers enough....I always forget how much I enjoy their flavor. A recipe like this that showcases the sauce sounds lovely.

  10. The vibrant colors of this plate screams EAT ME! haha.. I love the photos they are stunning... really!
    I don't have a green thumb neither... no luck in growing my own garden... but I keep trying...maybe there's still a chance?

  11. Love the pics, they are gorgeous! I would announce to my house that I was picking stuff from my own garden too :) Great recipe, I can't wait to give it a try.

  12. I have 5 bazillion mini red peppers at home that I HAD no clue what to do with. Now I do, yea! Great pics!

  13. Beautiful Colors!!! That Andy IS A KEEPER FOR SURE!!! LOL! I want to dive right into this dish!

  14. We grow peppers too! Love picking them when there fresh.

    Your cat looks like mine too! Love it!

  15. Karen, your red peppers look fabulous! I especially like the photo with your sweet kitty. And this is a chicken dish I'd love...great teamwork to come up with this!

  16. Good kitty, great recipe!

  17. Looks delicious! love the photos. I also need a helpful comment from my husband sometimes!

  18. What a beautifully colored (and of course, flavored)sauce! And props to Andy for all those great ideas. I can't get over how perfect your peppers look--I wish I could just go out to the garden and get some like those! Lucky!

    P.S. Cute kitty!

  19. Loving the color of the sauce .. such gorgeous bright red! I know at times no matter how much you think .. the styling the recipe just doesn't appear in front of you .. glad it did for you :)

  20. What could you possibly ever need help with! I get inspired by you! Tonight I'm going to try to make this. Looks so delicious, and healthy too!

  21. We tried your Red Pepper Sauce with Sour Ceam-Lime Drizzle on halibut and it was fantastic! My husband kept repeating "This is five star!" I must say I agree. Not only is it delicious, but it is so pretty and colorful!

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