Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chicken Caprese Pasta

Is there anything that screams summer more than local tomatoes and basil? Paired with fresh mozzarella, a classic Salad Caprese is our idea of heaven, and is eaten over and over again, as long as the tomatoes continue to taste like real tomatoes! Here in the Richmond, VA area we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of locally grown, globally renowned Hanover Tomatoes. Hanover County is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Midlothian, where I we live, and we bask in their tomato-ey glory all the late long summer.

Since I believe you've GOT to give credit where credit is due, I made this dish after watching a segment on the Today show featuring the Scotto family of "Fresco" restaurant in NYC. It was about making different recipes with only five ingredients. I just so happened to have those 5 ingredients on hand: Chicken breasts, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil and pasta. They weren't counting staples like olive oil, garlic, onions, salt and pepper. (Watch them do it here.)  I didn't make my dish exactly the way they made any of theirs, but something sorta' like what they made, kind of a mashup of their pasta salad and the sauce for the chicken parmesan. I also made a nice fresh salad with a quick vinaigrette. I'll include that recipe after the Chicken Caprese Pasta. I like my chicken sliced over the top of the pasta, but hub likes  his chicken breast left in one piece! You pick which one YOU like best:
Chicken Breast sliced on top of Chicken Caprese Pasta!
Chicken Caprese Pasta with a WHOLE Chicken Breast on the side...
This comes together SO quickly, providing you've got your ingredients prepped and ready to go. So, wash your lettuce and basil, get out the garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, kosher salt and pepper. Set your salad bowl on the counter, and put a big pot full of water and a frying pan on the stove. Almost ready, now go! 

Chicken Caprese Pasta for Two
2 chicken cutlets, or chicken breasts pounded out thinly
6 oz. penne or other sturdy pasta (I had small shells on hand, so that's what I used)
olive oil
1 1/2 c. diced fresh tomatoes
2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into about 1/2" pieces
6 - 8 basil leaves, rolled and sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c. diced onion
1/4 c. dry white wine, optional

Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Season both sides with a little kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until just barely "al dente" -- use just barely the minimum cooking time. Drain it well. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 T. olive oil (medium to medium high heat) in a large frying pan with a heavy bottom. Add the chicken and quickly sear it, first on one side and then the other, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add 1 T. of olive oil, the garlic and the onion. Scrape up any brown bits left on the bottom. Turn the heat down and let the garlic and onion soften for a few minutes. At this point, I added a little Italian white wine, because I happened to have some, but that is totally optional. Add the tomatoes, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Cover the pan and let it cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken back into the pan along with the basil, cover and cook for 5 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken once again to a serving plate, and add the drained pasta into the sauce. Heat the pasta in the tomato sauce for several minutes, stirring to combine and to finish cooking the pasta. Right before serving, add the fresh mozzarella. Serve with your chicken breasts and a green salad. Black olives are optional! 

Here's how I make an easy vinaigrette:

In a jar, add 1/2 c. olive oil. To that, add 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/4 tsp, freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder OR 1 small garlic clove, grated, 1 tsp. dried oregano and 1T. fresh lemon juice. Then add 3 T. red wine vinegar and a scant tsp. of dijon mustard. Now, shake, shake, shake. Pour what you need over your salad and save the rest for another day. It keeps for at least a week in the frig, I've kept it for up to 2 weeks with no problem. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Julia!

Today is the 101st anniversary of the birth of Julia Child, one of my kitchen heroes. Here are a few of my own tributes to the very first TV Food STAR!

Beef Bourguinon

The VERY Best onion soup!

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

I'll be blogging again soon. I've had my arm in a sling from a carpel tunnel flare up, and since my job requires that I type and use the computer, that's just about all I've been able to manage! Thanks for your patience and check in with me again soon. In the meantime, cook like Julia!