chicken with cherry tomato pan sauce

Several foodblogs that I follow posted this recipe a few weeks ago, and it looked so delicious that I decided I needed to make it myself. It’s a pretty simple dinner to prepare, especially if you have a handsome sous-chef around to help you chop all the fresh herbs that go into this. You saute butterflied chicken breasts in a flavored butter, then sear the tomatoes in the pan until they burst and char (yum), then add some fresh herbs and a few others things, and it’s ready to go.

The recipe I used also included a tasty-sounding polenta recipe with parmesan, basil, and fresh corn. I’d never made or eaten polenta before, and I’m not sure my first attempt was quite worth posting about. This is probably because the polenta I bought wasn’t the best kind. I made sure not to buy the bags labeled “instant,” which left me with just one choice; only when I got home I saw that the bag assured its buyers that while it was indeed not instant, it just so happened to cook in one minute anyway. Marcella Hazan, my trusted advisor on all things Italian, would not have approved. In any event, you can find the polenta recipe if you go to the original link; it sounds like it ought to be good if it were made properly! Otherwise you could serve this with rice, roasted potatoes, or even with pasta (if you doubled the sauce, perhaps). And though we sadly didn’t have any wine with this, I think you should.  Read the rest of this entry »

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pasta puttanesca

Pasta puttanesca means literally something like “the whore’s pasta.” The story goes two ways: either this sauce was whipped up by Italian prostitutes in hopes that its smell would seduce passersby in off the streets (in case the normal attractions of a brothel weren’t enough, I guess), or they made it for themselves for a quick and easy bite to eat when they had a bit of down time.

Who knows if either of these legends is actually true. What is true about this sauce is that it is packed full of flavor: garlic, anchovies, olives, and capers simmer (briefly) with tomatoes to produce a loud, complexly flavored sauce. A healthy dose of red pepper flakes contributes a spicy kick. This is definitely racier stuff than your average tomato sauce. I recommend having some crusty bread to mop up the leftovers, plus a nice glass of red wine (or two).  Read the rest of this entry »


lamb kofta with tomato sauce, yogurt, and pita

This is a Turkish recipe that is variously called yoğurtlu kebab, or, when I’ve had it in restaurants, İskender kebab (though technically İskender kebabs are made with doner meat, the preparation is otherwise basically the same). Little spiced lamb meatballs, or kofta, are nestled on toasted pita with tangy yogurt and tomato sauce, and then everything is drizzled with olive oil or melted butter mixed with paprika. The pita soaks up the yogurt and juices from the meat and becomes soft and so very delicious. I have this in Turkish restaurants often, and am so excited that I can now make it at home.  Read the rest of this entry »


tomato sauce with garlic and basil

This pasta is, for me, the essence of summer. Tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil are simmered for 20-ish minutes to produce a light, fresh, and healthy sauce. It is so much better than any tomato sauce you will ever find in a jar, and it isn’t complicated at all. When tomatoes are out of season, it can be made with canned tomatoes, and is still delicious. It’s very versatile; I’ve eaten it alone on pasta (as above), and used it in both chicken and eggplant parmesan. This is the first tomato sauce I attempted to make from scratch last summer. I tried several other versions after this, some with long lists of ingredients that started with a mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery) and included wine, sugar, and red pepper, and they just didn’t match the simple goodness of this sauce.

This is another recipe from Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This book is worth owning just for the pasta section, which is over 100 pages long and includes 50+ recipes for different sauces (disclosure: I haven’t actually tried anything outside of the pasta section, because there are so many tasty-looking pasta recipes). Marcella always recommends certain pasta shapes for certain sauces. Before buying this book, it had never occurred to me that pairing pasta to sauces was something that was done, but I have tried her recommendations and understand now that certain pastas and sauces complement each other very well. I think this sauce, though, can be used with a variety of pastas; she recommends spaghetti or spaghettini (smaller spaghetti noodles), but I’ve also enjoyed it with linguine (my own favorite noodle!) and penne. Whatever pasta you use, some crusty bread is an absolute necessity. How else will you mop up the sauce leftover on your plate once you’ve eaten all the noodles? (Er, other than scooping it up with a spoon, which I have definitely done before).  Read the rest of this entry »