Tag Archives: Balsamic

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

Boneless skinless chicken breast can be so boring sometimes! Yesterday morning I had taken two frozen breast halves out to thaw and thought all day about how I was going to prepare them; I ran the gamut from simple and uncomplicated to full blown kitchen chemistry lab. By the time I left work I had in my mind visited Italy, Spain, and the South of France, stopped off in Ireland for a while and even hung out in Mexico and the Deep South!

When I finally got to the grocery store I was feeling totally uninspired so I picked up salad ingredients and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and headed home. I figured I would cook the chicken simply, using whatever I could dig up in the pantry. Then as I dug around I began to form an idea; I had zucchini that needed to be used, pasta, a giant jar of capers, Spanish olives, a can tomatoes and bingo that was it…We were going to the Mediterranean!

Drawing on fond memories of Snapper Veracruz and Pasta Puttanesca recipes I had prepared in the past I landed somewhere between simple and a science experiment. I cooked the chicken separately from the sauce because oftentimes when chicken is cooked in a liquid, it produces an unappealing protein scum (for lack of a better description). This also allowed for a good browning of the meat, assisted by a little tomato paste, that really added a richness to the final product. The anchovy paste and the final tablespoon of capers also boosted the flavor of the sauce.

Note: If it seems your sauté pan is not large enough to hold everything use a large bowl to fold together, the sauce and the pasta.

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

1 – 28 Oz Can, Peeled Whole Tomatoes
2 – Lg. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves, trimmed and cut in ¾ to 1 inch chunks
8 Oz – Whole Wheat Penne
2 – Med. Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 – Med Onion, Quartered then sliced
1 – Small Carrot, finely grated
¼ Cup – Capers, 1 Tbsp reserved
¼ Cup – Green Spanish Olives, pitted
¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
¼ Cup – Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbps – Tomato Paste
1 Branch – Celery, sliced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced (divided)
1 Lg. Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp. – Dried Oregano
¼ tsp – Anchovy Paste (Optional)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Ground – McCormick’s Italian Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved

In a large sauté pan over med heat warm 4 Tbsp. of olive oil until shimmering. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, anchovy paste and about ¼ Tbsp. of ground Italian seasonings to the pan and sauté 1 minute, stirring. Stir in onions and celery and cook stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent. Stir in the carrots, rosemary, and oregano, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and allow it to come to a boil, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the tomatoes, carefully crushing them as you add them to the pan. Add the capers and olives and allow the sauce to come to a boil once again. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and continue simmering.

Meanwhile warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. When oil is shimmering, add 1 clove of garlic and stir briskly, 30 seconds. Stir in chicken and cook stirring for 1 minute then add the tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often until the chicken has browned and just cooked through. Add the cooked chicken, zucchini, and chicken stock to the sauce and continue simmering until the zucchini is just cooked through. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and remove and discard the rosemary sprig.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain (do not rinse!) in a colander and fold the pasta, along with the reserved tablespoon of capers, into the sauce. Serve garnished with shaved parmesan.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu – Broiled Fish with Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa & Brown Rice

Several friends have asked me to share some of my “Clean Eating” recipes as Kat and I have been trying to eat better foods on a regular basis. Some are new to cooking so I thought it would be helpful to include the recipes for the entire menu including each step in the preparation. So here is a super quick, healthy, yet tasty menu that’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. I would love to hear some feedback on how you like the recipe written in this fashion. If you like them I will include more “menu” posts as my blog continues.

Broiled Fish w/Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

Don’t let all my notes and stuff scare you…I just want to spell it our for my friends that are new to cooking. Start to finish this meal was uncomplicated and came together in about 1/2 hours time. (I almost typed 30 minutes…but we won’t go there!)

For the Fish you will need…

( Note: Figure on about 3 servings per pound of cleaned fillets. I haven’t been fishing in forever but I’ve been finding some really nice packaged fresh fish at Costco lately. Just check the “Packaged On” date and choose accordingly. The fresher the better!)

Fresh fillets of halibut (pictured), corvina, grouper, or tilapia if you must, sliced into 4 to 6 oz portions.
1 Tablespoon per serving, extra virgin olive oil
1 light sprinkle per serving – mixed dried Italian herbs in a grinder (I used McCormick’s).
1 Tablespoon per serving – jarred basil pesto (I used Kirkland brand from Costco).

For the Asparagus you will need…

(Note: These asparagus stems were about 1/2″ thick at the base. I clean the spears by grabbing the base with one hand and just below center with the other, then bend the asparagus until it naturally breaks. What you are left with at the base is generally the tough stringy part, and at the tip…the good stuff. I don’t always do it but you can blanch and freeze the bases to use in stocks or purees at a later time.)

6 to 8 spears per person – fresh large asparagus, cleaned and rinsed
1 Tablespoon – balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons – extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper

For the Mixed Greens you will need…

About 1 cup per serving of bagged baby greens
Just enough dressing to barely coat the greens. ( I used http://www.briannas.net/flavors/real-french.html )

For the Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

(Note: I used http://www.seedsofchangefoods.com/our_foods/product.aspx?c=rice_grains&p=279 also from Costco. We love this mix and eat it once or twice a week. It’s ready in 90 seconds and it’s great plain or mix in anything you like from fresh chopped herbs and a little sautéed garlic or browned onions, to last nights leftover stir fry.)

About 1 Cup per serving Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice.

To Prepare…

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. clean, rinse, and pat the asparagus dry. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and oil until slightly thickened. On a foil covered cookie sheet gently roll the spears in a single layer while drizzling with just enough of the oil to coat. Place in the heated oven for 15 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is in the oven place the fish on another foil covered cookie sheet and roll each piece while drizzling with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. With the fish skin side down, lightly sprinkle each piece with the spice grinder. Set aside until the asparagus comes out of the oven.

3. In a large bowl toss the greens with barely enough dressing to coat. (Note: Don’t overdo it! The idea is to just season the salad without drenching.)

4. After 15 minutes, carefully remove the asparagus from the oven and turn the broiler on high. Grate a little Parmesan and black pepper lightly and evenly over the spears.

(Note for step 5: If you have a conventional oven, leave the door cracked open an inch or so to the first stop. This will prevent the broiler from overheating and cycling off. The fish should be about 4 inches from the coils or flame.)

5. Allow the broiler to heat up for at least a minute or so then place the fish in the broiler and close. Broil the fish for 4 minutes per inch of thickness…3 minutes if it’s 1/2 inch or less.

(Note: You want the fish to cook fast and until the flesh is just becoming opaque (no longer transparent) in the center. The fish will continue cooking even after it is removed from the oven.)

6. While the fish is cooking nuke the quinoa and prep your plates with about 1 cup each of the dressed greens and a carefully placed serving of the Asparagus. Add fresh tomatoes if you like!

7. Remove the fish from the oven and carefully place each serving on top of the greens. “paint” each piece with about 1 Tablespoon of the prepared pesto.

8. Finish the plate with an approx. 1 cup serving of the quinoa and….

Viola! It’s time to eat.

Enjoy,

Randy

Mmmm…Bruschetta!

After seeing the photo in my blog header, my friend Jackie really wanted my bruschetta recipe. I told her this was only one of about a million ways that bruschetta is made and explained how I prepared it on this particular day.  She still insisted that I share the recipe so Jackie…this one is for you!

The word bruschetta actually refers to the bread that is usually grilled or toasted, drizzled with good olive oil, then rubbed with a fresh cut clove of garlic. The “bruschetta” is then often topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. A quick search of bruschetta on Google actually returns over 7,150,000 results, many of which are delicious recipes and the common denominator in nearly every one is the bread, the most important ingredient.

Traditionally bruschetta was a use for old bread that was or about to become stale. This was the good, crusty stuff that mom baked in her kitchen or picked up from the local bakery. So in keeping with tradition, when I make bruschetta, I always look to start with a good loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette. And, for the best taste and texture, I always try to serve my bruschetta while it is still warm.

To make bruschetta place a whole loaf of good crusty bread on your cutting board so that the right end is pointing towards the lower right corner of the cutting board, and the left end is pointing towards the upper left corner or roughly a 45 degree angle. Now cut ½ inch thick slices with your knife blade parallel to the sides of the cutting board. This should give you nice oval shaped slices of bread. Now lightly toast the slices on a grill or under a broiler until they are crisp but not overly browned. (I toasted mine on a dry cookie sheet placed 6 inches under the broiler just until they were golden.) Once toasted, lightly brush each slice of bread with a little extra virgin olive oil then rub gently with the cut side of a freshly cut in half garlic clove.  Now you are ready to make bruschetta magic!

On the day the photo was taken, I wanted to make my bruschetta in the style of an Insalada Caprese. So after toasting and following the steps above, I drizzled each piece with a little balsamic vinegar; probably no more than ¼ teaspoon on each. Then I topped each bruschetta with a slice of soft fresh mozzarella, a slice of super ripe fresh tomato, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and a few ribbons of fresh basil chiffonade.

I hope you enjoy this bruschetta and be sure read through a few million of the other recipes on Google <wink!> or use your imagination to come up with your own yummy topping combination!

Randy