What I Cooked Last Night

Sometimes I make up these crazy meals that turn out to be wonderful. When that happens, i think it is worth sharing. Occasionally something turns out to be a total disaster, then it is the story, rather than the recipe that is worth sharing. My kitchen creativity is best used on leftovers. I can work tasty magic with leftovers. Be sure to read the first post, "About My Cooking Style" which will help in following recipes when given, or to recreate meals from my prose.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Grilled Chicken and Pasta

Last night a dear young friend joined me for supper. Having recently graduated from high school, spent 4 weeks touring Italy, and now preparing to go off to college quite far away, my friend had lots to celebrate and we had lots to talk about. Having traveled to Italy twice myself, I am very fond of Italian cooking, and my cooking is often inspired by Italian techniques and recipes, even when I am not cooking specifically Italian foods.

Tonight's menu: Grilled Chicken alla Modena, Ragu of Grilled Summer vegetables with Tri-Color Rotini Pasta, Crusty Bread with Infused Olive Oil, and Sliced Homegrown Tomatoes. Fancy titles for very simple foods, but sometimes I just like to have fun.

The chicken is embarrassingly easy. Simply marinate boneless chicken breasts (or thighs) in balsamic vinegar for about twenty minutes. Grill. That's it. It doesn't even need salt. The chicken cooks up tender and loaded with flavor from the vinegar.

For the pasta sauce I sauted half a diced onion in olive oil with some diced green bell pepper. While that cooked I took some grilled vegetables left over from the night before and chopped them up. I had zucchini, yellow squash and red bell peppers. You can use whatever vegetables you prefer. Once the onions and peppers were nicely browned, I added the diced vegetables, three cloves of garlic that was minced fine, a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, a bay leaf, two tablespoons of chicken soup base and six large basil leaves from my garden. I gave it a quick stir and let it simmer while I worked on other things.

I put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

I picked a sprig of rosemary out of the yard, washed it, pulled the leaves from the stems and crushed them between my fingers. I put them in a bowl with one cup of olive oil. I then added two cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thin. It is best if you do this the night before and let it steep all night, but you can microwave it for 20 seconds or so to speed up the process.

I added the pasta a some salt to the boiling water. While that bubbled I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the sauce and blended it well. When the pasta was tender, I lifted it from the water with a slotted spoon and placed it in a large bowl. The sauce went in on top and I tossed it all together. I added a few spoons of the water from the pasta pot to add a little liquid to the dish.

To serve, I sliced up the chicken and piled it on a platter with the sliced tomatoes, I put the bread on a board with a knife and a bowl of the flavored oil and served the pasta up in a large earthenware bowl with a big spoon.


Tonight, I am making soup from the leftovers. I have diced the chicken up small and added it to the pasta. When it is nearly supper time, I will put it in a pot with a carton of chicken broth, a small can of tomato sauce, a can of kidney beans, drained, a can of diced tomatoes, drained, some Italian seasoning and simmer. Instant chicken minestrone! It will be served up with grated cheese and a basil leaf on top. Garlic bread made from the leftover flavored oil and bread with be hot and toasty on the side. The sliced tomatoes will be added to a salad. A ten minute meal on a Saturday night. What could be better?


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