Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dinner: Penne with Peppers, Lemon, and Chicken

I often experiment at dinner time. At 5:53pm, I'll look at my watch and think, "Oh boy. What am I going to do for dinner? I have absolutely no idea. No plan." After years of this routine I know that I need a few key ingredients to save the day. Do you know what I mean by a few key ingredients? When you get to the grocery store and think, "I forgot to make a list. What should I buy to get us through the week?" For me, these few ingredients include black beans, butternut squash, broccoli, and bell peppers. Without fail, if I have a bell pepper or two in the kitchen (preferably red), I can pull off something interesting.

Last night I pulled out my trusty bell pepper and knocked the ball out of the park. Here is what I created.

Penne Pasta with Peppers, Lemon, and Chicken

2 Tblsp. olive oil
2 Tblsp. butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine (cooking wine is fine)
cooked chicken breast (I used a breast off of a rotisserie chicken)
1 large red bell pepper, 2 inch long thin strips, seeds removed
1/2 cup heavy cream
peel and juice of 1 lemon
1 pound penne pasta (bowtie or rigatoni would also work
parmesan or pecoreno romano cheese

Start water boiling for pasta. In large saute pan heat olive oil and butter. Add garlic and onion and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add red pepper and white wine and continue sauteing. If your chicken is precooked add it here (I had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and added one shredded breast).
If your chicken is raw, cut raw breasts into chunks and add before garlic and onion, toss in heat until cooked through then add garlic, onion, bell pepper and proceed.

Boil penne pasta until al dente (I always boil my pasta for 1 minute less than the box says, and it comes out perfectly al dente).

Grate lemon rind and add to chicken and peppers. Add juice from lemon. Finally, add cream and heat through. The cream you add should not turn the chicken and peppers into a sauce, but rather bind everything together in a creamy sort of way. Does that make any sense?

Toss cooked pasta with 2 Tblsp. olive oil. Place on platter. Add chicken, lemon, and peppers to pasta platter. Grate parmesan cheese over dish. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dinner: Baked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Grilled Corn, Crusty Bread

I always take a break from cooking after the holidays. Not because I'm tired of cooking, but because I have to stop eating and undo the damage I've done over the holidays. I usually try to adhere to Gwyneth Paltrow's Cleanse and Detox program but only make it the first 3 days....I mean the first three hours.

Why am I telling you this? Because I have just barely gotten into the swing of things. Last week I threw this meal together in less than 30 minutes, and you can too. In fact, if you don't pause to yell at your children or talk to your friends on the phone, you can probably do it in twenty.

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Assemble salmon. I buy the Atlantic salmon skinless boneless portions in Costco's freezer section. Thaw them (while still in wrappers) under warm water, unwrap and place in 9x13 pan. Mince 1 clove garlic, place it in ramekin or small bowl with 1/4 cup butter. Melt garlic butter mixture in microwave and then pour over salmon. Place in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through. (I often bake the salmon for 10-12 minutes then broil it to brown the top...yummy.)
3. I usually have frozen baguettes in my freezer. After preheating the oven to 350, I pull one out, run it under water (it will seem weird to do this but putting moisture into the outer crust will give the loaf a chewy just baked texture). Throw it in the oven for 15 minutes. Wha-la--almost fresh crusty baguette.
4. Grab Trader Joe's Grilled Corn (freezer section) out of the freezer. Throw frozen corn in bowl with 2 Tblsp. water, a pat of butter and a dash of salt and microwave until done.
5. Rinse Fresh Young Spinach and place in pretty bowl.

That's all. I had the whole thing on the table in 30 minutes and everybody was happy. Danny and I turned ours into salads and were especially thrilled. Enjoy.