Friday, September 9, 2011

Italian Adventure- a light, refreshing meal

Many times when we cook Italian food here in the US it's very heavy and saucy. Alfredo sauce, spaghetti saturated in red sauce, baked ziti, lasagna. But when the time came to cook some Italian recipes my husband and I decided we wanted something lighter. It was a hot day! Armed with another stack of cookbooks from the library I finally crafted the evening's menu: Pollo Alle Cipolle, Patate Alle Contadina, Bietole All'Agro, and some Pesto Pasta.

Our pasta came from a Jamie Oliver cookbook called Jamie's Italy (pg 121). It was a pesto pasta. It makes a delightful lunch in and of itself, as we can attest from eating it the next day. The delicious smelling part was grinding the fresh basil and garlic together with a pestle. 
Mmm, can't you just smell it now?

The tedious part was grinding the roasted almond with the pestle into a powder. 
The delicious part was once I combined the basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, spaghetti, and tomatoes together and seasoned it- oooh, wow! Everything about it was marvelous. It worked well as a side dish, and as lunch the next day. The flavors were light, pleasantly crisp, with a slight hint of nutty. 

Country Style Potatoes (Patate Alle Contadina)
Boiled potatoes in cold water with coarse salt until soft.

Made a "sauce" out of finely chopped garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

When the potatoes were ready I peeled and sliced them. Then I tossed the potatoes with my "sauce" and chilled it in the refrigerator until supper time. It was a delightful alternative to our American and German potato salad recipes. We couldn't get enough! 

Pollo Alle Cipolle
I found this delicious chicken dish in Bugialli's Italy. Oooh, was it ever moist, juicy, and flavorful. Love, love, love! I would make this for company any day, or for my family when bell peppers are in season and chicken is on sale. I don't think boneless chicken breast would work- it's roasted a while. 

To make this, I sauted onions with salt and pepper until pale, and added salt, red & black pepper, white wine, red wine vinegar, and bay leaves.  I cooked until reduced 1/3. Then when ready to combine with the chicken I added some bell pepper rings and cooked until soft.

Meanwhile I prepared the chicken by removing the fat, drizzling it in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baking it for a while. After a while I turned it, sprinkled on more salt and pepper, and baked it again. By the end of the second baking my sauce had been reduced. So I poured the onion/pepper mixture over the chicken and served.

Bietole all'agro 

aka Boiled Swiss Chard with Olive Oil and Lemon was billed as a "safe accompanying vegetable" in The Fine Art of Italian Cooking. After trying it myself, I fully agree with that assessment. It certainly tasted nicer than most greens recipes I've had before (and that comes after growing up in the deep South!). It was also incredibly easy. Swiss chard has rather bubbly leaves so cleaning them takes a little more effort than spinach but not much. I removed the stems from the leaves so I could just use the leaves, soaked them, and then boiled them with salt. After boiling I cooled the chard, squeezed it, chopped it, and tossed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and freshly squeezed lemon. Yummy!

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