Saturday, May 1, 2010

Italy in Jacksonville

So I'll admit this blogging thing takes a lot of work! I've been SUPER busy here the past few days with helping my friend Sharon plan her daughter's 2nd birthday party (Happy Birthday Brooklyn!) and getting ready for my friend Becky's bachelorette party. They are both taking place today and since I got *most* of the work done ahead of time (soooo not like me!!) I have the time to sit down (well, actually I'm standing up) and write a little blog post. Don't worry, I'll be posting more on my contributions to the parties later...get excited though because I MADE a 3-tiered cupcake stand and 40 cupcakes decorated like flowers and bugs for Brooklyn's birthday and concocted a batch of pesto pasta salad, AND I baked two loaves of bread and whipped up a batch of my fave white bean dip for Becky's shin-dig. So now you know why I haven't had the time to blog :)

The other night (I think it was Wednesday...or was it Thursday??) I made Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms (aka Chicken Cacciatore). It was a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food website and it. was. delicious. But of was Martha. I made a few changes because I didn't have any fresh mushrooms (and besides, Brian doesn't really like them anyway). I used a small can of mushrooms that I had in the pantry. I also didn't have any stewed tomatoes so I used a can of diced tomatoes, the ones that are seasoned with oregano, basil and garlic. I thought some olives would be good with it (I was right) so I added those too, and topped it all off with some nice fresh Italian parsley before serving it. We'll definitely be making this again!

To go along with the chicken cacciatore, I baked a loaf of no-knead bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I don't own the book but I found an abbreviated version of the recipe for the boule here. I know, I know - French bread with Italian food! Well, it went fabulously well together so I guess we'll just call it European "fusion" cuisine :)I followed the bread recipe exactly but halved it in order to get 2 loaves. Now I wish I had made the full recipe because you can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, just cutting off 1-lb sections as you want to bake them! I will be making this bread every week since I CANNOT find good bread here. I have to drive all the way to Wilmington (1 hour +) to get to a Whole Foods or Fresh Market which have the only acceptable bakeries I know of in the area. I haven't found any little boulangeries anywhere closer. Well anyways, it must be meant to be because I was ALWAYS intimidated of baking bread - you know, the kneading, the rising, etc. I wouldn't have even thought to try to make my own bread (B is the boulanger in the family) but this recipe just looked so SIMPLE...and it was! Try it. You will not regret it. And by the way- I am definitely buying the book.

Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

Adapted from Everyday Food

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (I used one small can chopped shitake mushrooms, drained)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
handfull of whole, pitted kalamata olives
chopped fresh Italian parsley


Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large (5-quart) saucepan (I used my dutch oven) with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook chicken, turning when it easily releases from the pan, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add mushrooms; cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, and oregano. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until tomatoes have broken down, 10 to 15 minutes.

Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan; add in olives; cover, and cook until chicken is opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chicken to coat with sauce, and serve topped with chopped parsley.

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