Cooks Corner

Readers request recipes for Miami chicken sandwich, minestrone soup

Arena-style: A reader requested the recipe for this chicken sandwich, as served at Chicken Ciao near Section 108 at the American Airlines Arena.
Arena-style: A reader requested the recipe for this chicken sandwich, as served at Chicken Ciao near Section 108 at the American Airlines Arena.

A reader writes:

“I had a delicious chicken sandwich, with a mess of piquant greens and parmesan, at AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami. I’d love to try to make it at home, if you can get the recipe.”

I tracked it down to Chicken Ciao at Section 108 (see recipe). This is a great way to eat your kale — with a sprightly vinaigrette and a hefty dose of parmesan.

Q. Approximately three to four years ago, the Miami Herald published a recipe for minestrone soup. While I prepared it numerous times, I have misplaced the recipe.

It was simple and delicious, including zucchini, kale and potatoes. I usually made it without the potatoes because I would freeze portions, and they tended to get mushy.

I have tried to find this online with no success. I am not sure that it was in your column, but it was definitely in the Herald. Here’s hoping you can resurrect this terrific, economical soup recipe!

Nicolette Handros, Miami

A. Alas, a search of our archives did not turn up a minestrone with kale, but perhaps you’ll settle for adding kale to this recipe. Its roots are an early 1980s Cook’s Corner, but it has been fiddled with and updated ever since. (The original recipe called for 3 hours of simmering, for example, which you just don’t need, and dry beans, which means planning a day in advance.) I’ve added some seasoning as well, and a way to make it vegan as a way to satisfy a mixed crowd.

Minestrone, of course, is like the fairy-tale stone soup — you can add whatever you have on hand or whatever is in season. I often do a mix of beans rather than just the cannellini, and have been known to throw leftover black beans or baked beans in to clear the fridge of leftovers. Just recently I added a plateful of pasta with pesto I’d brought home from a restaurant.

One tip I learned from my Italian grandfather: If the soup is not thick enough, mash another 1/2 cup of beans into a paste and stir in at any point. As to the kale? I’d simply stir in a handful about 5 minutes before serving, just long enough for it to wilt if you are using baby kale. For tougher, mature kale pull off the fibrous stems and add along with the fava beans.

Tres leches cake

I’m always intrigued when a dish migrates from somewhere else to Miami, becomes a staple here, and then becomes mainstream. In a city of exiles, we learn to love new tastes along with our new neighbors.

Tres leches cake is a case in point. It first became popular here when the Somoza government toppled and Nicaraguans fled to the city and opened restaurants. I first tasted it at Los Ranchos in 1982, finally got a recipe in 1984, and soon I saw versions of it in lots of cookbooks and on menus all over the country.

Thumbing through Skinny Dinners, a new cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens, I found the recipe here for a lower-fat and -calorie version of the cake, so of course had to try it. The cake is not the familiar sheet cake, but a Bundt type, and while it soaks in three milks, the milks have shed their fat. The cake also has shed its meringue topping in its slimmed-down makeover.

There’s a good taste of vanilla, that great condensed milk flavor and soaked-in texture, and I really don’t miss the fat. Still, it’s a compromise and can’t compare to my good friend’s true Nicaraguan tres leche with its full fat richness (including 12 eggs), tall meringue top and heavy dose of dark rum!

As to the cookbook, it is quite helpful to those who want to eat more healthily without spending a lot of time — there’s a dinner-in-30-minutes section and one with five ingredients or fewer — and great tips for eat-this-not-that substitutions to remake your favorite recipes.

Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.

Main dish

AmericanAirlines Arena Chicken Milanese Sandwich

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon peeled and minced shallot

Kosher salt to taste

1/2 cup canola oil

4 breaded chicken breasts, about 3.5 ounces, cooked as desired

1 (16-ounce) bag chopped kale, steamed according to package directions

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces shaved parmesan cheese

4 brioche buns

1 ounce melted butter

Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallots and salt. Set aside for 20 minutes to soften the shallot. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking to emulsify.

Toss kale, cherry tomatoes and parmesan in a mixing bowl with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with coarse salt. Set aside. Prepare chicken as desired (at Chicken Ciao it is marinated in buttermilk and deep-fried). Butter the roll and toast until golden. Layer the chicken and kale salad on the prepared buns and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 915 calories (59 percent from fat), 61 g fat (16 g saturated, 22 g monounsaturated), 137 mg cholesterol, 47 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 5.5 g fiber, 1596 mg sodium.

Source: Executive chef Rufino Rengifo and chef Jim Abbey of Levy Restaurants; adapted for home use by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner.


Minestrone Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced potatoes

1/2 cup sliced carrots

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced fava, broad beans or green beans

1 1/2 quarts vegetable, beef or chicken stock

2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes (choose fire roasted or Italian style)

1 tablespoon parsley

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon, or to taste, dried basil

2 cans (15 ounces each) of cannellini or Great Northern beans

1/2 cup uncooked elbow, rigatoni, ditalini or orzo pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

Crumbled cooked bacon (optional)

Parmesan cheese to taste

Heat oil in soup kettle set over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and sauté until fragrant. Add celery and carrots and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add potatoes and zucchini and cook 3 more minutes. Add green beans. Add stock, tomatoes, parsley and cannellini beans. Stir in pasta. Simmer at least 30 minutes. At serving time pass crumbled bacon and parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top as desired. Makes 10 servings.

Per serving: 201 calories (17 percent from fat), 3.7 g fat (0.7 g saturated, 1.8 g monounsaturated), 4.3 mg cholesterol, 10.7 g protein, 29.8 g carbohydrate, 5.7 g fiber, 552 mg sodium.


Skinny Vanilla Tres Leches Cake

3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed

1 cup evaporated fat-free milk

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 tablespoons fat-free sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons whipping cream or fat-free milk

Fresh berries, optional

Allow eggs, milk and butter to stand a room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 10-inch fluted tube pan with cooking spray; set aside. In a medium bowl stir together flours, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium speed about 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Using a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean half in half lengthwise and use the knife to scrape the seeds into the butter mixture. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the vanilla. Add eggs, 1 egg or 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

Alternately add flour mixture and 3/4 cup of the evaporated milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. (Cake will appear shallow in the pan.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto the wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup evaporated milk, the sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Using a long skewer poke holes all over the top of the hot cake. Using small spoonfuls, evenly spoon the condensed milk mixture over the hot cake, allowing the milk mixture to soak into the cake before adding more. Cool cake completely. Makes 16 servings.

Per serving: 200 calories (36 percent from fat), 8 g fat (4 g saturated, 2.3 g monounsaturated), 53 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 156 mg sodium.

Source: “Skinny Dinners” from Better Homes and Gardens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99).