Food that looks as good as a summer’s evening. And it almost was, after the temperature reached seventy degrees this Saturday in New York. I put on a light sweater and headed outside, with the tune from Amelie in my head as I strolled over to Fort Greene Park, thinking of the scene about the man who buys a chicken every day and cooks it with great care and tenderness, savoring the moment he bites into the oysters. I had thoughts of Provencal fare on my mind as well, even though I don’t know anything about how to prepare it except for a hunch that very colorful vegetables are lightly cooked with lots of garlic by sauteeing, or stir-frying them, a process very familiar to me.
At home I had a pint of grape tomatoes, a jar of olives, and not much else, but it was a start. I think the grape tomato, in all its delicate succinctness, successfully swept the cherry tomato into oblivion. If you can remember them, cherry tomatoes were grossly oversized balloons in comparison to the grape tomato, a golf ball versus a ripe olive. Grape tomatoes are fleshier and so taste better raw than their predecessor, but they also cook nicely too.
When your grocery gives you no boneless chicken, as the saying goes, make chicken broth from the bones you cut out of whole chicken breasts. This was the predicament I came to tonight. I have to say that I’ve gotten much more adept at cutting into pieces of chicken to remove their bones after having done so just once. The demonstration I watched on de-boning a turkey by the Brooklyn Kitchen no doubt helped a little, too. The only challenge about it really, is to be prepared to set aside a little time with which to get your hands all dirty and try not to cross-contaminate or gross your boyfriend out.
Pasta with Chicken, Asparagus, Grape Tomatoes and Olives
(Makes 2 servings)
2 boneless chicken breast
2 Tb flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1/8 tsp rosemary
2 Tb olive oil
About 1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped in half
1 small handful Spanish olives (aka whatever jar of olives you have in the pantry), chopped in half
5 or so trimmed asparagus stalks, chopped to 1/2″ pieces
5 cloves of garlic, chopped in half
About 1 cup chicken stock
1 Tb butter
Cooked spaghetti for 2 servings
Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Wash and pat dry chicken breasts with a paper towel, making sure they are completely dry. In a bowl or plate, combine flour and salt. Coat each side of the chicken breasts lightly in the flour. Heat a large saute pan with half the oil until hot. Place the chicken breasts down, sprinkle with rosemary and some pepper, and cook each side on medium until lightly browned, about 2 minutes each. Cover and cook another 2-3 minutes (depending on how thick the pieces are) until fully cooked inside. Transfer chicken onto a plate and cover loosely.
Heat the rest of the oil, and saute the tomatoes, asparagus, olives, and garlic. Gradually ladle in the warmed chicken broth and cook uncovered for about five minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add more broth if mixture evaporates too much, or cook off if it’s too soupy. The sauce should be somewhat thin, but very flavorful. Stir in the butter, and return the chicken to the pan. Serve over pasta, and finish with parsley and grated parmesan.
(for 2 servings)
1 split chicken breast: $3.23
1 cup grape tomatoes (at $2.79/pint): $0.70
5 asparagus stalks (at $2.99/lb): $1.00
5 garlic cloves: $0.10
Small handful Spanish olives: $0.20
Chicken broth made from unwanted bones from the chicken breasts: $0
Spaghetti for 2 servings: $0.80
Olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, rosemary: $0.12
Three brownie points–nothing too bad to see here. Olives aren’t very good for you, but it makes for a much healthier flavor-packing alternative to bacon or pancetta. With plenty of green, red, and protein to pass, this dish is very light and healthy, just the right kind of dinner for those “balmy” January nights.