Here's an article that might be of interest to art lovers and lovers of art by Leonardo da Vinci. Hopefully it will be on display one of these days in Florence.
This certainly isn't a classic Italian recipe, but it has a lot of Italian ingredients. And with warmer weather on the horizon (will wishing make it so?), maybe it's to time begin to think about grilling.
Step 1: Marinate the Chicken
I only had time to marinate for about 30 minutes before it was time to cook, and my dish still came out tasting great. If you have more time to marinate, please do! On the left, you see the simple marinade ingredients. I throw my chicken breasts into a big ziplock bag, add a big glug of olive oil, squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon in there, toss in some fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Squeeze out the excess air, zip it up, squish it all around, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Get your stuffing ingredients ready
The items on the plate are going IN the chicken; nice big fresh basil leaves, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese. Next to the plate, you see the thinly sliced pancetta I'm going to wrap around the OUTSIDE of the chicken and the toothpicks I'll need to hold it all together.
Time to prep the chicken!
1) Using a sharp knife, cut a "pocket" into each chicken breast. Notice how I try to keep my opening somewhat small, while using the tip of my knife to create a bigger pocket on the inside. (This is my effort to not let all the ooey-gooey cheese escape :)
2) Stuff one large basil leaf, two pieces of sundried tomato and a wad-o-goat cheese in each pocket. Yes, your fingers will get quite messy at this stage. Take a peek inside my chicken :)
3) In my continuing effort to not let my cheese escape, I place a pancetta slice directly on top of the pocket opening, then use another slice to cover the other half of the chicken breast. I use two toothpicks to hold it all together. (Use more toothpicks if you need to!)
Time to Grill!1) This is where the husband comes in handy. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I don't grill. I hand him the prepped chicken, and in a short time........ta-dah! My chicken is cooked! It's like magic. It's all crispy on the outside, and smelling lemony and bacony. Can't wait to dig in.
2) Okay, I dug in. See what's waiting for you inside?! Creamy cheesiness! And look....the hubby grilled some zukes too.
3) Go ahead. Take a bite. You get crispy bacon, creamy cheese, intense tomato, bright lemon, savory herbs all in one bite. The marinating keeps the chicken nice and moist. Delicious. Really. Buon Appetito!
4) Wine note: Lots of people prefer white wine with chicken, but since this chicken has tomatoes and cheese, I prefer a red with it. We had a chianti classico from Vignavecchia.
This time of year means “comfort food” to me. Comfort food….Italian style. This recipe is a one dish meal, and it’s become a staple in our household. While living in Italy, we fell in love with Italian sausages. They are so inexpensive there, and make for a quick meal. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to simply split them down the middle lengthwise and place them cut side down in a lightly oiled, very hot skillet. The cut side browns up very nicely and gets nearly crispy before you turn them over to finish cooking the other side. This quick method of cooking them seals in the juices and gives you a crunchy bit to each bite.
But my other favorite way to cook them is with greens and orchiette pasta. Orchiette means “little ears”, and it’s so true! This pasta shape looks just like little ears, or dimples. The three basic ingredients are Italian sausages, the pasta, and greens of your choice. Tonight, I’m using red swiss chard. But I’ve made this dish with broccoli rabe, green chard, and spinach.
Before you start, put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta and chard. When it comes to a rolling boil, throw in a spoonful of coarse salt. Meanwhile, you can begin to prep the chard. First, remove and discard the tough stems. I also remove the tough middle vein before slicing it into big pieces, throwing it all in a colander and giving it a good wash.
In a large skillet, heat up some olive oil, and throw in a smashed garlic clove. Rub it around in the oil to flavor the oil, and discard the clove when it browns. Today, I’m adding mushrooms and onions. Some days, I don’t add anything; just the 3 main ingredients. Sometimes, I have red bell pepper in the fridge. Whatever you have on hand that you think will work well is just fine. Saute the onions and mushrooms until they begin to wilt down.
Push the mushrooms and onions to the side for a bit, and add in your sausage which you’ve cut into chunks.
Your pasta water has most likely come to a boil by now. Did you remember to add the salt? Add the orchiette, and stir it around.
Go back to your sausage pan and make sure everything is coming along well and browning nicely.
When your orchiette is almost done, just add your cleaned chard right into the same pot with it. I usually do this when I think there are 3-4 minutes to go. Remember that greens wilt down A LOT. Even if I'm cooking for only two, I use a very big bunch of greens. Besides, they're good for you.
You’re now only moments from dinner. Call everyone to the table! When the orchiette is al dente, drain both the pasta and the chard together in the same colander. When they’ve drained, add both to the sausage pan. Toss it all around, spreading out the greens.
…..and Buon Appetito! Dinner is ready! Grate some fresh parmesan over the top, pour a glass of wine, and you’re good to go. Tonight we had a Valpolicella Classico from le Bine.
Maybe one of the first thoughts that comes to mind when asked, "What will you buy when you're in Italy?" is leather goods. And yes, I must admit that over the years I may have purchased a purse, or two, or.............more. And yes, I must admit that over the years, I may have purchased a pair of boots or two, or.......
But, since I moved back to the U.S., whenever I go to Italy, my first thoughts for what to buy tend toward food. Here's a sampling of what I brought home from my trip just last month. Of course, there was wine and olive oil. But I also brought back coffee, honey, cheese, lentils, polenta, chocolates, lots of cookies, and more. It's seriously like Christmas when I unpack. Even the wooden "bowl" (made from olive wood) is something I brought back. It's fun to go out into the countryside and shop local specialties, but whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I also love to make the local grocery store one of my stops. For me, it's great fun to see what the locals are putting in their shopping carts.
My other favorite things to shop for in Italy (besides purses and shoes and food, oh my!) are ceramics and glassware. Here you see what I brought back on this last trip. I was able to spend some time in Deruta which is ceramics shopping heaven. (I had to decide the best place for the bus to park :)
There are an incredible number of ceramics shops in this one small town. It would be impossible to go into them all in one day. But I do have my favorites that I return to whenever I'm there. The artisans in this town have family histories steeped in pottery making and in painting. Prices are higher than they used to be years ago (Isn't that true everywhere?), but they are still a bargain compared to what you would pay for these products in the U.S., and you see a LOT more variety. Irene's rule of packing: Never travel without bubble wrap.