So, you know how some recipes "work" and others....well...just don't? I'm 2 weeks into my little cooking adventure, and while I love all the background on recipes, ingredients, and techniques in my cookbook, I'm not 100% convinced that the recipes "work." That said, I decided this menu plan would work off of another Italian cookbook and a couple recipes from the Internet/Food Network. Still authentic Italian. Still playing by the rules. (But since I made up the rules, I can change them and still be playing by them!!!)
The cookbook that I am taking several upcoming recipes from is called "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" by Jeff Smith. The book features recipes from the "New and Old Worlds simplified for the American Kitchen." As much as I would love to be in Italy cooking, I do have to accept the reality that I still live in America and my kitchen is very Americanized.
Ok, enough about that. Onto the food! It was yummy! And the recipes worked. And in true Italian style, I took what I had on-hand and easily came up with a vegetable dish (with a little Italian inspiration!)
I was so excited to make this meal. The only thing, however, that I knew for sure that I was making was the chicken. The vegetables and potatoes came together after browsing some internet recipes. The chicken: Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar. Yum! All my favorite ingredients--garlic, fresh basil, olive oil, chicken, as well as the balsamic (of course!). Marinate the chicken thighs, grill them quickly to lock in the flavor, and finish in the oven! Voila!
The potatoes (stay tuned for a repeat attempt at gnocchi!): Rosemary Olive Oil Mashed potatoes, inspired by a recipe by Lidia Bastianich, but tweaked by Karla! A sprig of fresh rosemary in the boiling pot of cubed potatoes, then adding olive oil instead of butter after they were drained and mashed. I had my 7-year old son add some splashes of milk to make them creamy. Yum!
The vegetables: Braised Celery and Onions, again inspired by a recipe of Lidia's that I watched her make on her PBS Create cooking show "Lidia's Italy." Easy, simple, hearty, and surprisingly delish. I am not celery's biggest fan by any means, but braising them in some olive oil and their own juices made the celery sweet and tender. I will be making this again.
A typical dessert in Italy (according to my cookbook and unfortunately not based on personal experience. Someday!) is a light bowl of fresh fruit. A heavy dessert is very American. So, I had a ripe cantaloupe in my fruit basket and my grocery had strawberries on sale ($1 for a pound!). I mixed some sugar into a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and lightly drizzled it over the fruit. Sweet and satisfying!
The spread! I'm not sure that my San Fransisco-style sourdough bread is authentic Italian, but when you have a starter hanging out in the fridge, you have to make a loaf every now and then to keep the starter going! (And yes, it was yum!)
This meal is totally company-worthy! And the process was simple enough for even the hostess to enjoy the company!
*Here's a side story: (see, I told you I would try to make this post make up for its long time coming!) My 7-year old son was grounded to his room after school. Well, I decided to cut his grounding short and had him come help me cook dinner while my other 2 chitlins were still napping. I told him in Italy, cooking is a family affair (again, based on my cookbook!!). I went on to say that a meal wasn't just about eating, but about spending time together as a family. He looked at me and said, "Duh. What else is a meal for?" Good kid. :)