What a week. Of course, it’s no longer Friday, but still, time to talk about what we’ve made this week. I’m behind (obviously), but quite proud of myself – it’s only Sunday, the dishes are done, and after all, I had a turnaround business trip to Philadelphia, returning on Thursday, so I’m going to try to do what I always tell myself to do, and cut myself some slack.
I’d thought that I wouldn’t be able to make it to my friends’ house on Friday night (what with the trip and the aggravated (or is that aggravating??) back – but a chance to see my friends and share a fabulous meal of New England delicacies (can you say – Lobster?) was too much to resist. After a quick visit with my folks, back to the Valley. But, on the way, I decided to stop at my favorite Farm Stand in Camp Verde. This family is just wonderful, and as is the tradition – it’s the kid’s job to mind the stand on the weekends. Too cute – not to mention – too great vegetables!! So with some red banana peppers, red jalapenos, eggplant, roasted chiles, and amazing fresh tomatoes in hand, off I was back to the southern homestead.
Of course, what that meant was more work than I’d originally planned on. I’d already expected to make some fall-fruits preserves, but now I had a number of other things to take care of! All varieties of red peppers got turned into some not-too-fiery pepper jelly, some of the tomatoes and chiles into some ranchero salsa (for me!). On the way home, I ran into a fabulous sale on raspberries… so altogether about 30+ jars of yummy goodness to share and savor… well, it was time to do some “real” cooking.
I decided that I’d make our chicken dish for this week, but also got sidetracked with making a summer ratatouille, with that eggplant and some of the peppers and tomatoes. But move forward I did! I’ll give you the recipe for the ratatouille later, but now for the “cinnamon-crunch chicken”
There it is… on the left. This is one of those things that is ridiculously simple, and could be made when you want something a bit “more” without actually having to DO more. Literally, you cut up boneless, skinless chicken breasts, brown in a little butter, and meanwhile mix a good dollop of creme fraiche with some crumbled cinnamon (or cinnamon ginger) cookies. When the chicken in nearly cooked, you add the cream mixture, give it a toss, and serve. What could be easier?
That said, this wasn’t my favorite dish – though, I can certainly imagine making it (or some version) again – just for the sheer simplicity. What struck me was that it was rather re-enforcing my very-American sugar addiction. I didn’t love my first bites, but it kind of grew on me (by-the-way, where was the “crunch”?). BUT, I certainly could now understand my friends who will only eat one-thing-at-a-time on their plate – usually something that I don’t really get (me the one that’s trying to create a great combination, then seeking the “perfect bite”), but completely understood here, because the combination of ratatouille and the chicken wasn’t great, though both were enjoyable in their own way.
Really more of a concept than recipe, here’s my Summer Ratatouille:
- 4 T olive oil
- 1 large onion – slices cut in quarters
- 1 large or 2 small eggplants, cut into about 1/2″ cubes
- 1 large portabello mushroom cap – cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
- Thyme (about 1/4 t dried)
- Sage (about 1/2 t dried)
Heat the oil, then add the vegetables and herbs – saute over reasonably low heat for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft – stirring often.
- 2- 3 tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2″ cubes (use 3 if medium/small)
Add the tomatoes to the pan, and cook over medium-high heat until softened and liquid is generally evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Place in a baking dish that is deep enough to allow the remainder of vegetables.
- 2 zucchini or combination of summer squashes (about 3/4 lb), sliced to 1/4″
- 1-2 sweet peppers (I use red or yellow – but you could use green if you would like a more pronounced pepper flavor), sliced to 1/4″ – can be in rings or slices
Place alternating rows of peppers and squash on top of the other vegetables.
- Drizzle 1 T of olive oil over the top.
Very loosely cover the dish with foil, and place in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Remove the cover, and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven (push vegetables into mix just a little if getting dried out), and evenly add to the top,
- 1/4 c grated parmesan
return to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is brown and the vegetables are soft.
This can be served hot, room temperature or cold (it can even be frozen and re-heated). This is enough for 6 servings. When it’s hot, I like it with pasta or a crusty French bread. This is great with some roast chicken, but terrific on its own.