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Mediterranean Recipe For June

For the latest Chef on a Shoestring, we invited a veteran of the challenge, Marc Meyer, to create a recipe with a Mediterranean taste for the mid-June season.

Meyer is the executive chef at "Five Points" restaurant located in downtown New York City. There, he delivers elegant, New American cuisine that has hints of the Mediterranean.

Meyer says he grew up as an "army brat." Unlike many other kids who find that lifestyle unsettling, he relished it. He says his childhood memories were about cognac-cream filled candies and meals overlooking the Rhine.

His family eventually settled in San Rafael, Calif. He later studied architecture at UC Berkeley. Nearing graduation, he left Berkeley to work six months on a king crab boat off the coast of Alaska's Aleutian Islands. He decided shortly after that to pursue a culinary career.

We invited Marc Meyer to take our Chef on a Shoestring challenge to create a three-course meal for four for $30 or less.

Meyer's menu: an appetizer of Fava Bean Hummus; an entrée of Citrus Marinated Chicken Breast with Arugula Salad ; and for dessert, Frozen Strawberry Soufflé.


Hummus (HOOM-uhs): This thick Middle Eastern sauce is made from mashed chickpeas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic and olive or sesame oil. Meyer uses fresh fava beans for his recipe. And he serves the hummus with toasted pita. It is traditionally served as a dip.

Arugula: (ah-ROO-guh-lah): Arugula is a bitter tasting, aromatic salad green with a peppery mustard flavor. It resembles radish leaves and can be found in specialty produce markets and in some supermarkets — sold in small bunches with roots attached. The leaves should be bright green and fresh-looking. Arugula is very perishable and should be tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, then refrigerated for no more than two days, according to the "The New Food Lover's Companion."

Zabaglione (zah-bahl-YOH-nay): This is a dessert made by whisking together egg yolks, wine (traditionally marsala) and sugar. This beating is done over simmering water so that the egg yolks cook as they thicken into a light, foamy custard. Traditional zabaglione must be made just before serving, according to "The New Food Lover's Companion." Meyer creates a frozen version of the dessert.

Marsala: (mahr-SAH-lah): Imported from Sicily and made from local grapes, marsala is Italy's most famous fortified wine. It has a rich, smoky flavor that can range from sweet to dry. Meyer uses sweet marsala because it is traditionally used as a dessert wine and is considered a traditional ingredient for zabaglione.


Fava Bean Hummus
Serves 4

2 cups shelled fava beans (from approximately 3 to 4 pounds of fresh favas)
1/4 cup cold water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pounded into a paste
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 14 ounce bag of pita

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Place pita on a cookie sheet and toast it until warm (approximately 5 minutes).

Blanch the favas in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, then shock them in an ice water bath or under cold running water to stop them from cooking further. Peel the favas.

Transfer all the ingredients except the olive oil to the workbowl of a food processor. Puree the contents of the food processor until consistent. Add the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture is creamy and the oil is used.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl. Check the seasoning for salt, garlic and lemon to your taste, then serve. Cut the pita bread into triangles to serve with the hummus.

Citrus Marinated Chicken Breast with Arugula Salad
Serves 4

4 half chicken breasts, skin on, with wing joint still attached
kosher salt

Marinade Ingredients:
1 lemon, roughly chopped, seeds removed
1 orange, roughly chopped
1/2 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
juice of 1orange
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper

Salad Ingredients:
2 bunches arugula (or an equivalent amount yielding about a handful for each serving), washed
sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the marinade ingredients in the workbowl of a food processor and puree until consistent (you want the ingredients to be well-mixed, but it need not be pureed smooth).

Dry the chicken breasts with paper towels, transfer them to a large re-sealable plastic bag, add the marinade, seal and let marinate at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

Heat a grill, a grill pan or a cast iron skillet until very hot. Wipe most of the excess marinade off the chicken breasts, and cook for 5 minutes on each side. While the chicken is cooking, toss the cleaned arugula with sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Serve each chicken breast with handful of dressed arugula on the side.

Frozen Strawberry Soufflé
Serves 4

Though the recipe looks complicated, says Meyer, this is actually a very simple dessert. There are three easy-to-make components — zabglione, (pronounced zah-bahl-YOH-nay), whipped cream and beaten egg whites — into which you will fold the cooked strawberries. There's nothing to do at the last minute except fetch them from the freezer.

1 quart of strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Zabaglione Ingredients:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Marsala

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
1 cup cream
(plus the cooked strawberries)

Whipped Egg Whites Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Combine the strawberries, water, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the strawberries start to break down. Turn them out into a bowl, mash them lightly to the consistency of thick jam with a fork, and set in the fridge to cool.

For the zabaglione, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a double boiler (or in a metal mixing bowl over a small sauce pan of simmering water) and whisk until creamy (about 12 minutes). Reserve.

Make the whipped cream by beating it with a whisk, a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Continue to beat it until you get to the soft peaks stage. Fold in the cooled, cooked strawberries, and beat again until you have soft peaks. Reserve.

Whip the egg whites with a whisk, a handheld mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk them slowly until they take on a milky color. Then begin adding the sugar a little at a time while beating them on high speed until you've achieved very stiff, shiny peaks.

To finish the dish, gently fold the zabglione into the whipped cream. Then fold that mixture very gently into the beaten egg whites. Meyer says you want to do this as gently as possible so as to deflate the cream and the eggs as little as possible. Turn the mixture out into four ramekins with soufflé "collars" (parchment paper that will help guide the shape of the soufflé) and transfer to the freezer until ready to serve (for up to 6 hours). Garnish with additional strawberries, if desired.