I imagine that most home cooks have marinated meat at some point in their home cooking career. So, if you’re looking for a new or trendy marinade, go to your search bar and type “new trendy marinade”.
This post is just for fun.
I’ve mentioned this before but I feel the need to repeat it…what’s up with the monstrous chicken breasts?! When did this happen?
I’ve seen lap dogs that are smaller than the chicken breasts I find at my local grocery store. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just that, well…
The good thing is that these mammoth chicken breasts still tastes like chicken but it’s weird…weird, I tell ya’!
Back in old days…hmm, maybe 20 years ago, if I wanted to filet a chicken breast I would simply lay the breast on a cutting board and slice it in half, horizontally. Simple enough. But these pterodactyl sized chicken breasts nowadays are so large that I find myself slicing it twice, instead of once. I make a horizontal cut near the top and another cut near the bottom of the breast.
I really didn’t intend on ranting about gargantuan chicken breasts. It’s just that it’s so…weird.
Let’s make a simple marinade for a big breasted bird.
Italian Marinade for Chicken
Oh, let’s add a little olive oil…
Cut the chicken breast horizontally to ½” thickness.
Pour the marinade over the chicken. Place the chicken and marinade in a plastic storage bag and refrigerate for at least two hours, but no more than twelve hours.
Remove the chicken from the marinade. Prepare the chicken as you wish…bake, grill, pan fry, or roast.
Here’s a little secret: The marinade does not have to be discarded. If you bring the marinade to a rolling boil in a pot for a few minutes it will be perfectly safe to use. After it has boiled, bacteria will have been killed and you can safely use it for sauces or basting.
A near perfect combination of rain balanced with ample sunshine have provided me with lots of garden-fresh spinach and basil.
The tomatoes are on their way and I can’t wait!
Fresh spinach is such a joy! As a child, I never liked spinach but that’s because spinach came in a can, back then. Canned spinach is a sad, soggy misrepresentation of what spinach is meant to be. Fresh spinach isn’t bitter, like the canned version and it’s crammed with vitamins and minerals.
I have been feasting on spinach salads for over a week now and the garden is outpacing my consumption. Must eat more spinach!
So, with that in mind, I find myself including it in more and more dishes.
Today’s culinary excursion took me to Italy, Florence, to be precise. ‘Florentine’ is an adjective that is used to describe many things. To fight Florentine style is to use a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, but I’m not a fighter. My passion is food and preparing food, Florentine style, often refers to the use of spinach in the dish.
Pizza Fiorentina speciale! Mama mia!
I’m making three pizzas today. Two showcase spinach and one is an Italian meat extravaganza. The spinach pizzas are made with garlic infused olive oil, rather than a traditional marinara sauce.
I recommend using fresh spinach for the pizzas. Frozen spinach can be used by it must be squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible…and for pity’s sake,don’t use canned spinach! Use homemade pizza dough, or store-bought pizza crust.
Pizza Fiorentina (Pizza Florentine)
2 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup fresh spinach, rough chopped
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp red chile flakes (optional)
1 ½ cups grated mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil, to taste
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan over low heat. Simmer and stir for a few minutes until the garlic softens.
Strain the garlic and reserve the olive oil.
Chop and mash the garlic. Return the garlic to the olive oil and set aside.
Combine ricotta and Parmesan cheese, spinach, oregano and red chile flakes. Mix to combine.
Prepare the pizza dough.
Spread the olive oil and garlic on the pizza dough and bake in a 425° oven for 10 minutes.
Remove the pizza crust and add the cheese mixture, spreading the mixture evenly across the pizza crust. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven. Top with fresh basil. Slice the pizza and serve hot.
Pizza con Varietà Di Salumi (Pizza with a variety of cured meats)
This pizza features thinly sliced pepperoni salami, hot capocollo and hot calabrese.
6 oz cured Italian meats (pepperoni salami, hot capocollo and hot calabrese)
1 cup marinara
2 cups mozzarella
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Prebake the pizza crust, if making from scratch.
Add marina, followed by the meats and then the cheese.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.
Remove the pizza, slice and serve hot.
Pizza Spinaci all’Aglio (Pizza with Spinach and Garlic)
In its purest form, this pizza is nothing but olive oil, garlic, spinach and cheese but, I added a few other items to add sweetness and flavor.
3 Tbs olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 fresh tomato, sliced thin and marinated in olive oil and oregano for 30 minutes
1 cup fire roasted yellow bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup fresh onion, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh spinach, rough chopped
1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese
½ cups Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, to taste
Simmer the garlic in olive oil over low heat until the garlic softens. Strain the garlic, chop and mash and add back to the olive oil.
Roast the bell pepper over an open flame or over hot coals. I laid the pepper on top of the gas burner and set the heat to the lowest setting. I rotated the pepper every few minutes until the whole pepper was charred.
Store the pepper in a paper or plastic bag for a few minutes to steam.
Remove the pepper and wipe away the charred skin, under cool running water. Dice the pepper and reserve.
Spread the olive oil mixture onto the raw pizza crust. Allow the oil to soak into the dough for about one minute and then blot with a paper towel, to remove excess oil.
Add tomatoes, bell peppers and onion.
Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Remove pizza crust and add the spinach. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.
Remove the pizza from the oven, top with fresh basil. Serve immediately.
The biggest challenge here is making the chicken breast thin
enough to roll. It needs to be thin in
order to cook evenly and it needs to be thin enough to roll up like a burrito.
You could flatten the chicken breasts by pounding them down
with a mallet but I prefer to slice the breasts horizontally, nearly all of the
way, and then I lay the chicken breast open. If the chicken breast is really thick you can
slice it from the top side and then slice it again, in the opposite direction
from the bottom side, to make a tri-fold.
Before we get going…
A caution about using
toothpicks to secure food. I use the
same number of toothpicks on each item that I secure. If I need two picks on one chicken breast, I
use two on all of the other breasts, even if I might only need one toothpick for
some. That way, when serving time
arrives, I know that I must remove two toothpicks from each breast. It eliminates the guessing game that comes
when I think, “did I use one or two toothpicks on this one?” Make sure to remove toothpicks before serving!
As with many recipes, you can stuff the chicken with
anything you like. This time around, I
had some ricotta cheese that needed to be used and some prosciutto that was
just itching to be used for something. This
recipe serves three people.
3 chicken breasts
4 oz prosciutto
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
7 oz ricotta cheese (about half of a 15 oz container)
1 ½ cups Panko bread crumbs
½ cup cooking oil
For the sauce:
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
¼ cup chicken stock
24 oz tomato sauce (I used an 8 oz can and 16 oz tomato
¼ cup half-and-half
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 oz spinach
On a clean cutting board, flatten the chicken breasts to ¼”
thick, or carefully slice them.
Layer the chicken breasts with several slices of prosciutto
Scatter grated parmesan cheese over the chicken breasts.
Apply a schmear of ricotta cheese to the chicken.
Spread some panko bread crumbs onto a large platter. Lay a chicken breast onto the bread crumbs and press down lightly.
Roll the chicken breast and secure with toothpicks.
Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add ½ cup cooking oil. When the oil is hot, gently lay the chicken breasts into the pan, being careful to not crowd the pan.
When the bottom side browns, turn it over and cook the other
side. When both sides are golden brown,
remove to a clean plate, lined with a paper towel.
Discard the oil from the pan. I like to reuse oil so I usually dump the oil
in a stainless steel bowl and filter it later and store it in a can.
Wipe remaining oil from pan but leave a slight, residual
film of oil. Turn heat to medium high and
add onions. Sautee for a minute until
onions soften. Remove onions and set
Deglaze the skillet with chicken stock.
Add butter and flour and whisk to make a roux.
Add cream and tomato sauce.
Whisk and sauté until the sauce thickens. Return the onions to the skillet. Lower the heat.
Add fresh spinach and sauté for another minute, or so, until
the spinach wilts.
Pour the sauce onto an oven proof serving platter. Arrange the chicken on top of the sauce and add a few slices of mozzarella. Bake in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
This dish is a bit like Shrimp Scampi but, not so bold and intense in flavor. The creaminess, provided by the half-and-half, along with the pasta turns a wild Shrimp Scampi into something gentle and soothing.
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp red chili flakes
4 garlic cloves
1 lb large, raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
2 green onions
¼ cup fresh basil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup half-and-half
12 oz dry pasta (I used Farfalle – butterfly pasta)
Ingredients for the
1 Tbs softened butter
1 Tbs flour
Ingredients for the garnish:
½ cup diced tomatoes
2 root ends of green onions
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp oregano
¼ tsp garlic powder
You should prepare all
of the ingredients in advance. Shrimp
cooks very quickly and you want to have all of the other ingredients ready when
you need them.
Boil the pasta to al dente.
Normally I would use lots of water but this time, I wanted the noodles
to keep some of their starchiness so that the sauce would cling to it better.
While the pasta cooks…
Pulverize coarse salt and red chili flakes in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Chop the garlic and slice the green onions. Reserve the root portions of the green
onions. Set aside.
Prepare the sauce thickener by blending the flour with the
softened butter. I like to use a fork
for blending. Set aside until needed.
Prepare the garnish by dicing the tomato and roots of the
Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Set aside.
Strain the garnish to remove the olive oil and vinegar. Set the garnish aside.
Rinse the shrimp under cold water and remove the
In a large skillet, add 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Simmer at low heat.
Add the garlic and crushed salt and red chili flakes. Simmer at low
heat for about two minutes. This will allow the garlic to mellow a
Add the shrimp to the pan.
Turn the heat to low/medium.
Stir the shrimp until they turn from translucent to slightly
Add the green onion, basil and lemon juice to the pan and stir for about a half minute.
Add the sauce thickener and mix with the buttery sauce. It should thicken within a minute or so. Add the half-and-half and stir.
Add the Parmesan cheese.
Turn the heat off and add the pasta. Stir a few times and remove to a serving
I don’t make Chicken Marsala very often, mainly because I
rarely have Marsala wine on hand but, every time I make this I tell myself that
I should always keep a bottle of Marsala within arm’s reach. The sauce that the wine produces is rich and
smooth. A good Marsala sauce results in
a beautiful balance of sweet and savory flavors. Heavy cream can be added to the sauce to make
it luxurious, to the point of decadent.
Note: Most recipes for
Chicken Marsala call for some cooking sherry to be added, along with the
Marsala wine. Cooking sherry is another
thing that I rarely keep in stock, so I skipped it. Marsala and sherry are both sweet wines and I
didn’t think I would lose any significant flavor by omitting the sherry.
¼ cup flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
4 chicken breasts, sliced ¼“ thick
4 Tbs butter
4 Tbs olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 ½ cup sliced
mushrooms (an 8 oz package)
½ cup Marsala wine
Slice the chicken breasts horizontally into ¼”slices.
Mix the flour, salt, pepper and oregano together in a
bowl. Coat the chicken in the flour
mixture and set aside for several minutes.
In a skillet, melt the butter and oil over at medium/low heat.
Add the shallots and simmer for 1 minute. Remove the shallots and reserve.
Place the coated chicken in the pan, and brown, slightly. Do not crowd the chicken. You will probably need to make two
batches. Turn the chicken after a
minute, or so, and then once again to lightly brown the other side.
Set the first batch of chicken aside to a warm area. Add the second batch of coated chicken to the
Once the second batch of chicken is done, add the first batch back to the pan. Add the mushrooms and shallots to the pan. Finally, add the Marsala wine. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, turning the chicken one more time during the process.
A wonderful brown sauce forms in a matter of a few minutes.
This week’s confession is truly astounding, even for someone
like me, who has committed so many kitchen atrocities over time that I am sure
I will end up in Kitchen Hell, when it’s all said and done.
All kidding aside, this was truly a remarkable faux
pas. I’m the sort of person that likes
to be the smartest kid in the class and, if it’s obvious that I am not the
smartest, I like to the one that says the most clever things. Earlier this week I confused Masala with
For those of you who might be scratching your heads,
wondering what the difference is between the two, I’ll tell you. The difference is “R”. (See
what I mean about trying to make up for a lack of intellect by attempting to be
Masala is a mixture
of many spices. It’s a term used by
people from India and Pakistan, among other places. It is not just one particular spice mix. The mix can contain any number of
spices. Masala is the flavor foundation
for many dishes.
Marsala is a
sweet, fortified Italian dessert wine, often used for cooking.
An innocent mistake, for sure. And, if that was where my story ended, I
could have laughed it off and gone on with my life with nobody being the wiser.
Several months ago, while visiting my favorite Indian spice
market, I struck up a conversation with the proprietor, as I usually do. He is always willing to stop and talk with me
and he has been a tremendous guide, while I attempt to unravel Indian
cuisine. On this occasion, I told him
that I was considering making a masala pizza, at least that is what he probably
heard. I actually said Marsala, because I was thinking about making
a chicken Marsala pizza. That was the
moment I ran off the rails.
You see, I have made chicken Marsala before and I have made
many dishes with masala, although I’ve never really thought about calling the
spice mixture, masala. I must have had a
bizarre synaptic short-circuit which caused me to switch masala with
Marsala. The proprietor, being the
gentleman that he is, just stared at me when I suggested the masala pizza. He gave me a sort of quizzical, pitiful look.
Well, months later, here I am ready to make the pizza. I wanted to try a test run with the chicken
Marsala, before moving on to the pizza.
I went back to the Indian market to pick up some items for other dishes
and when I saw the proprietor, I told him that I was really going to make the
masala pizza, but I what I actually said was, “Marsala”. I told him that I was deliberating on how to
approach the pizza. I didn’t want to use
traditional Italian marinara and mozzarella because I didn’t think they would
pair well with the Marsala sauce. I
asked him if he had a suggestion for a creamy sauce that I could make, instead
of using Mozzarella. After a moment, he
suggested coconut milk and followed that with suggesting tapioca starch to
thicken the coconut milk.
Coconut milk? I’ve
taken some interesting turns while creating new food but coconut milk didn’t
seem like a very good idea for pizza but, I told him that I would give it a
As I left the store and headed to the wine store, to pick up
some Marsala wine, it suddenly dawned on me that I had been utterly
confused. You see, the proprietor of the
spice market speaks perfectly. Despite
the tell-tale Indian accent, his diction and vocabulary is precise and
clear. He speaks better English than
most people I encounter, on any given day.
“Masala”, was what he was saying, and he made sure to say
masala each time after I said “Marsala” to him.
The nerve cells in my brain finally made the jump. I had been enlightened! I also suffered from incredible embarrassment.
As I drove to the wine store I convinced myself that the
only way to redeem myself was to perform an act of penance. I would make two pizzas. One would be inspired by masala and the other would be inspired by Marsala.
One final interesting event rounded out the day and
convinced me that fate is a very real thing.
I was checking out some other blogs and I came across this blog, https://ishitasood.com/
. It’s tagline reads, “The Biggest and Only Indian Blog on Italy”. Ishita is the author and she has produced
some very interesting posts. One post in
particular struck a chord with me… https://ishitasood.com/confessions-of-a-passionate-blogger/
In the blog she offers some words of encouragement,
including the following: “It is okay to be vulnerable.”
And that was exactly what I needed to hear. It is what I needed to remember. I am an imperfect human and so is everybody
I will work on these recipes with an open heart and an open
After spending most of the day in the kitchen, cutting
vegetables and cooking sauces, the last thing I wanted to do was make an
elaborate dinner. But, I wanted a
meaningful and heartfelt meal to end the day.
Since I still had fresh tomatoes and basil on the kitchen counter, I
decided to make something Italian-ish.
Most of the time, when dinner time rolls around, I don’t
have anything planned, and this was no exception. So I did what I normally would do. I stared at the contents of my refrigerator
and started grabbing things that would go well together. Some ground beef, some cheese and oh, the
little tub of ricotta that I kept overlooking.
I considered making spaghetti but I thought it might be a little boring
so, I opted for a the partial bag of wide egg noodles in my pantry that looked
I had just finished cleaning a bunch of dishes, bowls and
pots and pans and I didn’t want to do a lot of clean-up after dinner so I made
the entire dish with one large ovenproof skillet and two bowls.
If preparing homemade marina: 2 cups cut, fresh tomatoes, ½ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp dried rosemary, pinch of red chili flake, pinch of salt
2 cups marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)
8 oz egg noodles
1 Tbs olive oil
¼ cup diced onion
1 lb ground beef
3 oz mozzarella
3 oz parmesan cheese
15 oz ricotta cheese (almost forgot, even though it was the
reason I made this)
Directions for the
Core and remove the seeds from 5 or 6 medium sized
tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into 1”
pieces. Cook tomatoes in a skillet over
medium heat. Add garlic powder, oregano,
rosemary, chili flake and salt. Mash the
tomatoes every so often and reduce to about half, or until the tomatoes are completely
softened and the sauce has thickened.
While the sauce reduces, cut the mozzarella into bite-sized
chunks and shave the parmesan. Cut the
basil in thin strips (chiffonade). Set
Pour the finished sauce into a bowl and set aside.
Directions for preparing
the Italian Something:
Fill a skillet with water, about half way. Bring the water to a boil and add the
noodles. They will cook quickly…maybe 8
to 10 minutes. Strain the cooked noodles
and put them in a bowl and set the bowl aside.
Heat the oven to 350°.
Return the skillet to the stove and add heat the olive
oil. Add the onions and soften the
onions for a few minutes. Add the ground
beef and sauté until the meat has browned.
Add the marinara and noodles to the beef, in the skillet and
mix. Top with mozzarella and
parmesan. Bake in the oven at 350° for
about 15 minutes, until mozzarella has melted.
Now here’s the
interesting, and somewhat embarrassing part.
One of the main reasons I made this dish was to get rid of the ricotta
cheese that had just recently passed its “Best if Used By” date. I couldn’t stand for that so, I pulled the
skillet from the oven and plopped the ricotta cheese on top and gently swirled
it with a spatula.
In case anyone might
be concerned, such as the people who ate this dish, the “Best if Used By” date
is not the same as an “Expiration” date.
“Best if Used By” means that the food might have lost some of its
freshness, aroma or taste. If it has
passed its expiration date, don’t
Either way, I unsealed
the ricotta and, after checking the aroma, I deemed it worthy!
Return the skillet to the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes. Remove , top with basil and serve in the skillet.
Serve with a glass of nice red wine. You deserve it!
If I make this again, I will probably introduce the ricotta during the last few minutes again because it allowed the ricotta to stay slightly firm, instead of dissolving into the sauce.
A good Caesar salad is hard to resist. Crisp romaine lettuce and crunchy croutons
are the perfect vehicle for the robust, memorable dressing that accompanies it.
Italian immigrant, Caesar Cardini is credited with this Italian-American
staple. Caesar immigrated to America in
the early 20th century and eventually made his way to southern
California and Tijuana, Mexico, where he operated restaurants. He trademarked his famous salad dressing in
His storied life is not too different than the many other
immigrants that have made their homes here.
It is no surprise that many of our common, day-to-day meals are a result
of the imagination and ingenuity of immigrants, like Caesar Cardini. Immigrants have come to define who we are, as
2 cups Italian bread (or any other suitable bread for
1 Tbs olive oil
3 anchovies (packed in oil)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, chopped into large pieces
½ cup red onion, chopped
2 hardboiled eggs, sliced (optional)
Cut the loaf of bread into 1” thick slices. Lay the pieces of bread directly onto an oven rack and heat for about 15 minutes at 200°. Dry the bread but don’t toast it. Remove the dried bread from the oven and cut into 1” cubes. Toss the cubed bread in a bowl while drizzling a scant amount of olive oil. Put the croutons on a baking sheet and toast at 300° for about 15 minutes. I let mine go a bit too long in the oven and they tasted nutty. (Note of the brown hue of the croutons in the photo.)
Smear the anchovies, garlic, and salt on a cutting board
with the flat side of a large, kitchen knife. Keep working the mixture with the
knife until it forms a paste. I have to
admit, I licked my fingers after preparing the paste. The anchovy and garlic was intense, but oh,
so good, especially since I am crazy about anchovy!
Whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Once blended, introduce the olive oil very
slowly by drizzling the oil into the bowl and whisking briskly. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes
smooth and creamy. Add a little water
and whisk some more. Add just enough
water to achieve a creamy consistency, like you might find in store bought,
creamy salad dressings. Add the anchovy
paste and Parmesan and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Transfer the dressing to a large salad
Lay the Romaine lettuce horizontally on a cutting board and
make 1 ½” to 2” cuts from one end to the other.
Romaine is a dense, compact lettuce and that makes it desirable for this
salad. Add the chopped lettuce to the
bowl and toss gently to incorporate the dressing. Add the croutons, onion and toss a few more
times. Top with sliced hard boiled eggs,
if you like. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan
cheese on top and that’s it.
Now, since I mentioned that I love anchovies, I have to say
that I enjoy adding strips of anchovy on top of the salad, radiating from the
center like sun rays, but I know that anchovies are not adored by
everyone. The amount of anchovy in the
dressing should satisfy anchovy lovers without offending the rest of the
crowd. In fact, the lemon juice and Dijon
mustard tame the anchovy flavor remarkably well. Balance the dressing according to your own
If you are cooking for someone who absolutely despises
anchovies, consider finding a new friend consider substituting the
anchovy in the dressing with a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. Everyone loves Worcestershire sauce,
right? Just don’t tell ‘em that
Worcestershire sauce contains anchovy!