Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Risotto 101

3 Feb

Hey Kids!

Ye olde Culinary Chick is having guests over this weekend, barring any shenanigans from the weather this weekend.

On the menu are braised lamb shanks with dried cherry and rosemary demi-glace,  saffron risotto and roasted broccoli.   One of my guests, a childhood friend, loves potatoes and I serve them every time she comes over. However, this time I wanted to make something a bit different and dust off some of the skills I acquired over the years. One of them was how to make risotto. And believe it or not, you can too. If you follow my directions, you will have a great side dish to dazzle your friends with.

Risotto is an Italian dish made with arborio rice, a short grain rice prized for its al dente  texture and creaminess when cooked.  The version we will cook is Risotto ala Milanese. C’mon, its easy!

You will need the following equipment:

heavy-bottomed pan ( cast iron or aluminum [plain or anodized])

a wooden spoon

a ladle

1 – 2 qt. saucepan

Risotto Milanese (serves one as a main dish or two as a side dish)

2 tbl.  olive oil

1/2 c. arborio rice

1/3 c. diced onions

2 c. chicken stock or broth

pinch of saffron*

2 tb. parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1-2 tbl. butter

1 tbl. chopped fresh parsley

In a 1 – 2 quart saucepan, bring chicken stock and saffron to a simmer. Keep warm.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in heavy-bottomed pan and add onions and saute until clear and soft ( do not brown)

Add rice and saute, making sure all rice grains are coated and center of rice is visible.

Add one ladle of  hot stock to the pan with the rice and onions and stir with wooden spoon until all of the liquid is absorbed.

After all of the liquid is absorbed from the first ladle of stock, add another ladle of stock and stir again with the wooden spoon until absorbed. Repeat these steps until you have used all of the stock and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

By this time your rice will have doubled in size and you should see a  small amount of thickened stock in bottom of pan.

Add butter and stir until incorporated. Add parmesan cheese and pepper. If needed add a scant amount of salt ( taste first).

Add parsley and serve with a side salad as a main dish or as a side dish with seafood or meat.

A note: Saffron can be found in specialty stores and can be pricey. If you do not have saffron, you can still enjoy this dish without it. The addition of some fresh chopped herbs  or seasonings that will compliment your main dish will suffice such as  lemon zest, chopped chives, tarragon or roasted garlic puree  as an example will add flavor and color to your risotto. And, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can make this using vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock and omitting the butter and cheese.


Minestrone for whatever ails you

20 Feb

Well, what do you do when you want a vegetable soup, but not just any vegetable soup? You make minestrone, the king of vegetable soups. The good thing about this recipe is that with the omission of the meat,  this becomes vegetarian; and with the omission of the cheese, it becomes vegan.


3 Tbl. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped bacon, ham or smoked turkey meat ( omit for meat free option)

1 cup onion, peeled and diced

1/2 cup  chopped celery, diced

1/2 cup green or red bell peppers, diced

3/4 cup chopped carrots, peeled and diced

1 cup zucchini, diced

2 tbl. chopped garlic (  add more if you like)

15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 bay leaf

2 cups packed chopped fresh escarole or chopped raw spinach

1 5 oz. can  drained and rinsed cannellini beans, or 1 cup cooked pasta ( bowtie, elbows, penne)

2 tbl.  chopped fresh parsley

Parmesan cheese for garnishing


Prepare all vegetables and meats, and measure out all liquids and seasonings before preparing soup. In a 3 gallon heavy bottomed stock pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat.  ( If going meatless, skip the following step, and go to the next step) Saute bacon until crispy, or ham until browned slightly; being careful not to allow to burn, about 10 minutes. At this time, a brown substance may form on the bottom of the pot. This is called fond, and is valuable for flavoring soup. Do not allow fond to burn.

Add carrots, onions, celery, peppers, garlic and zucchini to the pot. Add I cup of the broth, and cook vegetables until wilted, about five minutes.  Add the rest of the broth, seasonings, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any accumulated fat off of the surface  with a spoon.

Add the spinach or escarole, and the beans or pasta and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until greens are tender. Serve in bowls with generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top.


Nicoise Salad

9 Jan

As I sat in my kitchen yesterday; all stuffed up and whatnot from the SCOURGE,  I become aware that I am sick of eating soup. So, I dig through the larder for something to eat and came upon the makings for a classic Nicoise salad.

So what is Nicoise salad, one asks oneself?

Salad Nicoise is a composed salad made with tuna, potatoes, olives, anchovies ( eww; yeah, I know), green beans, tomatoes, boiled egg and capers. It is presented on lettuce with a vinegar-based dressing, and is a great way to use leftovers.  If you are a tuna snob and prefer to use fresh tuna, go right ahead. I used the tuna  fillets in foil packets because that’s what I had, but good o’l regular tuna is just fine.

And, if you don’t like some of the ingredients and want to sub out say the tuna for chicken or turkey, and the green beans for cucumber, ect…make a damn chef or cobb salad, for Christ’s sake!

You will need ( Serves two):

4 cups of chopped romaine or your favorite salad mix ( I used mesclun mix)

tomato wedges

12 0z. can of tuna; or 6-8oz. fresh tuna, grilled

1 cup blanched green beans

2 boiled eggs, halved

1/4 cup kalamata or nicoise olives

1 cup cooked potato, diced or quartered (2-3 red bliss potatoes)

2 TBL. capers ( optional)

4 ea. capers ( optional)

Some sort of vinaigrette dressing (  like red wine vinaigrette, balsamic, italian, ect)

Using a large platter and using the lettuce as a bed, arrange all of the ingredients on top of the lettuce except the potatoes and optional ingredients. Toss potatoes in  a small amount vinaigrette dressing, then place on lettuce. Serve with some crusty bread.

Please refrain from using any creamy style, calorie-laden “dressing” that would probably weigh this salad down.

Please. Your waistline will be grateful!

Simple ways to cook chicken breasts: Chicken Bosciaola with Penne

30 Aug

Chad wrote:

CC – I’m a simple, single man with limited culinary skillz.  I like to eat  chicken breast.  I cube it and fry it in a pan with olive oil, and sprinkle some  garlic salt.  Its getting old.

Do you have any favorite, simple ways to cook chicken breast?  Bake?  Fry?

Why yes, Chad; I do indeed have several simple ways of cooking chicken breasts. I have several recipes on this site which may involve some prep, but are really good. This recipe for Beer-battered chicken fingers with honey mustard is really easy to prepare.  I will simplify a recipe I posted earlier on for chicken parmesan and e- mail that to you in a few days. In the meantime, try your hand at making this recipe: Chicken Bosciaola( BOSSY-OLA)!

Make sure that you familiarize yourself with this recipe before you attempt to cook this. It is easy, but it has a few steps.

Prep time is about 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes. Total time should come in at 35 minutes

You will need:

heavy skillet

liquid measuring cups

dry measuring cups

large ziplock bag

measuring spoons

wooden spoons

cutting board

kitchen knife

large pot for cooking pasta


2 chicken breasts ( try Perdue fit and easy chicken breasts; the are uniform in size and easy to work with)

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. olive oil

1/2 sliced small onion

1/2 sliced mushrooms ( you can also buy these freshly sliced as well, or buy them canned; drain them before use)

1 tbl chopped garlic ( you can buy this chopped)

2 slices bacon

1/2 cup  diced tomatoes ( Italian flavored ones are great for this dish)

1/4 cup red wine

1 pkg. brown gravy mix

1 tsp. italian seaoning

1 ½ cups penne pasta

1 ½ tsp dried parsley

2 tbl. butter

salt and pepper to taste

Put 2 qts. of water on stove in large container and bring to boil. While waiting for pasta water to boil, measure out flour,  1 tsp. salt and  1/2 tsp. pepper in ziplock bad and set aside. Cube chicken and  add to bag of flour. Close ziplock bag, and shake pieces of chicken in bag. Pull out chicken from the ziplock bag and shake the excess flour of the chicken pieces. Set aside.

Dice bacon, and onions and set aside. Mix brown gravy with water as directed on envelope and set aside.  When pasta water comes to a boil, cook penne pasta for ten minutes and drain. In the meantime, in a heavy skillet add olive oil and heat over medium heat.

Cook bacon , mushrooms and onions for about 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Add tomatoes, wet gravy mix, Italian seasonings, parsley and red wine. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Add butter,  and toss desired amount of cooked  pasta into the pan.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

You will need

20-minute Marinara sauce & Baked Chicken Parmesan

10 Jul

This will result in a all-purpose sauce that is light enough to toss with angel hair, and still substantial enough to be used in a lasagne recipe, or in Baked Chicken Parmesan ( recipe follows). Once on the stove, cooking time is 20 minutes.

20-minute Marinara

2-28 oz.cans of whole plum tomatoes in juice
2-each medium onions, diced finely
2 TBL. ( generous) chopped garlic
1 cup white wine ( or vegetable stock)
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced thinly
1/2 tbl. dried thyme
1 TBl sea/kosher salt
1/2 TBL. cracked/coarse ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Empty cans of tomatoes into a large bowl, and crush by hand until chunky. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until clear; about four minutes. Add garlic to onions, and cook for one minute. Empty tomatoes into pan, stir, add wine and turn up heat to high. Stir occasionally and bring to a boil, about seven minutes. Turn down heat, add dried seasonings, salt and pepper. Cook for eight minutes. Add fresh basil, stir and remove from heat. Toss sauce with cooked pasta of your choice, or continue with recipe below.

Baked Chicken Parmesan

Serves four

4 ea. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. sea/kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 Tbl. dried basil
1 1/2 Tbl.. dried oregano
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2 cups grated three-cheese pizza blend cheese (sargento)
2 cups hot, 20-minute marinara
Vegetable spray

Place chicken breasts ( one at a time) between a large ziplock plastic bag, and with a rolling pan, flatten each breast with a rolling pin until flattened and an even thickness; about 1/4 inch thickness. Place breasts on plate and refrigerate.

Clean all surfaces before continuing

Combine breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and  seasonings in a shallow pan ( pie tin), Set aside.
Measure out dijon mustard and put in separate container. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pull out chicken from refrigerator. With a small brush,  lightly brush both sides of the chicken with the dijon mustard. The trick is to get the breadcrumbs to adhere to the chicken. Place one breast in the breadcrumb mixture, pat gently and turn over until the breasts are evenly coated, shaking off excess crumbs. Repeat with each breast and refrigerate for 10 minutes.  Discard leftover crumbs. Spray a large sheet pan with vegetable spray and place breasts on sheet pan. Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove breasts from oven, turn each breast over, and top each breast with 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Then, top each breast with a generous amount of the grated pizza cheese. Return chicken to oven. reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake for 10-12 minutes more or until done. Serve over pasta, or for a lower carb option, serve with vegetable of your choice.