Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Chicken Breasts with Carrots and Leeks

This is one of my all time favorite recipes. It is a great go-to weeknight meal as it is quick, easy and delicious. It is even relatively low fat! The chicken always comes out perfectly done, moist and yummy, and it presents itself as much more gourmet than the time it takes to make. You can also vary the vegetables and herbs or add garlic or lemon. It is fancy enough for a company dinner and super easy on you!

Although my photos show 4 breasts, the recipe is for 2. Or make extras for another meal.

CHICKEN BREASTS WITH CARROTS AND LEEKS – serves 2

2 chicken breast halves, bone in, skin on, washed and patted dry
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp. olive oil – yes only 1 tsp. is needed
1 carrot – peeled and sliced into very thin julienned strips
1 leek – white part only, cleaned and sliced into thin julienned strips
6 thyme sprigs
2 tbs. dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tbs. chicken stock
1 tsp. unsalted butter (optional)
2 tsp. chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Trim any extra fat off from the chicken breasts, discard, and salt and pepper both sides.

Heat oil in a non-stick, oven-proof skillet on medium-high to high heat. Place chicken breasts in, skin side down, and brown for 6 minutes. Turn breasts over and scatter the thyme, carrots and leeks all around and under the chicken. Especially make sure the thyme is under the breasts, otherwise it will just burn in the oven and not impart its flavor. Pour in the white wine and chicken broth and place the skillet in the oven for 18 minutes. Check with an instant read thermometer, it should read 155 – 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast.

Raw chicken breast with salt and pepper on them.Julienned carrots and leeks with fresh thyme on a cutting board along with a bottle of white wine and mortar and pestle.

Chicken breasts with carrots and leeks in a skillet, roasting in the oven.

When done, remove the breasts to a platter to rest for 5 minutes. Boost the oven up to 425 degrees and put the skillet back in the oven with the vegetables and sauce. Make sure your carrots and leeks are tender. Remove skillet from the oven and swirl in the butter, if you are using. The butter makes the sauce richer, but it is not necessary if you are watching your waistline.Pan roasted chicken breasts with carrots and leek, garnished with parsley on a white platter.

Place the vegetables on top of the chicken and drizzle the sauce over all. Garnish with the chopped parsley. Smile and serve with LOVE! It’s so pretty!

Since this is one of my absolutely favorite, no-fuss, gourmet-looking and gourmet-tasting chicken dinners, I’ve selected it to submit to the Delicious Chicken Recipe Contest at Plated.com.

Vegetable lasagna with no pasta

YouTube Preview ImageMeatless meals. I love them, my husband, not so much. Well that’s really an understatement. He hates them. But this one, he loved.

Really.

I keep calling this a lasagna, yet I don’t know why, because there’s no pasta in it. But it does have layered things and mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese. Maybe it should be called a clean eggplant parmigiano because the eggplant is neither breaded nor fried and there’s very little olive oil in it. No matter, this is really, really good. It’s fresh and bright tasting and the zucchini was still a little crisp with the crunchy goodness of the bread crumbs – this is my kind of dish!Vegetable lasagna with a side of pasta on a white Wedgewood plate.
Perhaps you could suggest some names for me?

So I made this a week ago last Wednesday. I really try to do one meatless meal a week and two fish nights and then chicken, pork or lamb. We rarely eat beef. How about you – what’s your meal make-up?

When I made this, I made a huge portion as you can see in the video – but that turned out to be a great benefit. Steve and I had it for dinner the night I made it and then I carefully saved the rest, lifting it out of the pan, keeping the breadcrumbs on top. We had one other portion as a side vegetable one night for another dinner and then I served it as a first course for dinner with our friends Margaret and Wayne, last Saturday. It was perfect, warmed up in the oven, flash broiled again to crisp up the breadcrumbs. It received rave reviews!! Really. (and they had no idea it was a leftover)

Here’s the recipe:

VEGETABLE LASAGNA WITH NO PASTA
- serves 6 as a main course or 8 – 10 as a starter

Peanut oil
Olive oil
3 small striped eggplants, washed, dried, sliced into 1/4″ – 3/8” rounds
2 zucchinis, washed, dried, sliced into 1/8″ rounds
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 – 2.5 lbs. of fresh plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” rounds
7 cloves of garlic, minced
A handful of ramps, if you can find them or 1.5 tbs. of fresh thyme leaves or whatever herb you like, chopped
Salt
Pepper
1 scant cup of bread crumbs
3 tbs. chopped parsley
3 tbs. fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1.5 tbs. olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Pour a little bit of peanut oil on a paper towel and wipe a rimmed baking sheet with it. Lay eggplant slices on top and season with fine grind sea salt and pepper. Roast on the bottom rack of your oven for 20 minutes. When done, remove slices with a thin metal spatula so the browned parts stay on the eggplant and not on the pan. Reduce oven heat to 350 – 375 degrees.

Meanwhile prepare the zucchinis, tomatoes, garlic and ramps or thyme. TIP: Slice your cheese while it’s cold as it’s easier that way. Then leave out to get to room temperature.

Slick a tiny bit of olive oil in the bottom and sides of a 9” x 13” Pyrex glass pan. Put in a layer of sliced tomatoes, Then a layer of roasted eggplant, then the minced garlic, mozzarella cheese and then zucchini. Grind some pepper on top. Drizzle on top 1 – 1.5 tbs of olive oil, then the ramps or thyme, and then the final layer of tomatoes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 – 375 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes, until liquid is bubbly and the zucchini are fork tender.

Meanwhile, mix 2 tbs. olive oil with the breadcrumbs, parsley and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Toss to combine in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Remove the aluminum foil and turn your broiler on. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the whole dish. Broil the dish to get the breadcrumbs crispy, about 2 – 3 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn!

Let rest for 10 – 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!! I served this with a side of pasta with some garlic and parsley. Delish!!

Vegetable lasagna with a side of pasta on a white Wedgewood plate, overhead shot.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich lunch on a Saturday afternoon in March.I have so much to write to you about. I’m really back logged. There is no lack of food or stories to share with you, just time to write and post them. And then there are some recipes that I really want to get to you now because they are cold weather dishes that are so yummy and while we still have it, before Spring descends upon us, I think you should have them available. But now I want to tell you about our lunch today. Our son Zach, with help from his lovely girlfriend, Agata, made it. Just look at this photo of chunky tomato soup and a two cheese (sharp cheddar and provolone) grilled cheese sandwich. This was so yummy!!! And this was something he wanted to make completely by himself with not a comment or an ounce of help from me. Of course I had to blow it and offer my two cents here and there and I was shooed out of the kitchen – he wanted no part of my advice as well as he should. He doesn’t need me, sad as I think it is, he is more than capable in the kitchen and for that I am so grateful. He never looked at a recipe. I did, before we went to the grocery store together. But he had his own ideas – damn good ones at that!

His tomato soup had onions, celery, (3 stalks), carrots, thyme, red pepper flakes and homemade chicken stock.

It was divine.

Oven dried and “canned” tomatoes

Tomatoes oven dried in jars.

Oven dried tomatoes in olive oil with fresh herbs and garlic

Tomato jar tops with thyme.

My “canned” tomatoes with thyme. CORRECTION – don’t put the thyme in unless you’ve boiled it with the tomatoes – just washed fresh thyme could contaminate

 

Tomato jars ready for storage.

Summer – ready for storage – IN THE FREEZER, SINCE I ADDED THE FRESH THYME

So here’s what I did with the eleven pounds of tomatoes. I made 2 batches of oven dried tomatoes, which my whole family adores. They are very slowly oven dried which brings out intense flavor and sweetness. Drenched in olive oil with crushed fresh garlic and herbs they will keep for a month in the refrigerator – ha – if they should last so long!

What do you do with these? Eat them as they are, as a side with dinner or chop them up and throw in pasta for a quick sauce. Serve with broccoli rabe, sautéed scallops and lemon for a fantastic main course or throw on a pizza. Don’t worry, you will think of a myriad of ways to use them. Just make them and you won’t be sorry. And they’re so easy, all you need is time, 6 – 7 hours and you’re set. The basis of this recipe is from the Union Square Café cookbook.

The “canned” are simply the fresh San Marzano tomatoes, washed, cored and roughly chopped, cooked until the liquid boils and jarred with sprigs of fresh thyme. Ethel encouraged me to do them like this – naked – so I would have choices in the winter to do whatever I wanted with them. I couldn’t resist adding the thyme sprigs from my garden. Besides, it looks so pretty, doesn’t it? I processed these jars for 10 minutes in boiling water. UPDATE: I FOUND OUT THAT THE FRESH, JUST WASHED THYME COULD CONTAMINATE THE TOMATOES, SO DON’T ADD THE THYME AT ALL OR BOIL IT WITH THE TOMATOES.

OVEN DRIED TOMATOES
2 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes or San Marzano
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3-4 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
1 sage sprig
Olive oil to cover – can be as much as 2 cups

Wash, core and halve the tomatoes lengthwise. Sprinkle each half with the salt and let sit for one hour. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Bake in the oven for 5 – 6 hours. (5 works for me but it depends on your oven). They should be dried but still slightly plump. Let cool. Layer tomatoes, garlic and herbs in a clean glass jar. Cover with olive oil. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!!

Salted tomatoes on baking sheets.

Salted tomatoes waiting to go into the oven

Any season pork roast

I have been wanting to tell you about the first meal I served to our French graduate student who is going to be living with us for four months. Charlotte arrived on the Sunday before last. I wanted to make something super delicious, of course, but something that would keep in case she had issues in customs, and something with some French flavors. I figured a lot of thyme in a wonderful roast and we’d start with an adapted Jacques Pepin frisee salad with a little baby arugula added to it. I have this recipe noted in an earlier post.

Charlotte arrived about 2 hours late, but all was safe with the meal, EXCEPT that she tells me that she doesn’t eat salad!! And I’m telling you, this was a terrific salad. The rest of us scarfed down her portion. Fortunately I also had some carrots with the roast so she got some vegetables in her. (always the Mom – I can’t help it!)

This roast, however, I will make again and again. It was wonderful! Rich, savory and slightly sweet (from the apples) all at the same time, with the meat tender like butter (buttah)! Both my husband and son claimed it was better than my version of Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. It was more complex and interesting and let me tell you, a whole lot easier! You just need the time to leave it in the oven for 4 hours.

I was so excited to have a Sunday to make this, I took pictures at every point while preparing it, but I forgot to take a shot of the finished dish! Actually, the process pics are prettier and the result was delicious and delectable. Give this a go before the weather gets really warm to envelope yourself in wonderful flavors and sink into pure goodness, with love.

I served this with polenta squares, browned in a little olive oil and butter. Really, really yummy. Make the polenta recipe noted in an earlier post, pour into a buttered 9” x 9” pan and chill until firm. Cut into squares and sauté in butter and olive oil (1 tbs. of each) until nicely browned and hot throughout.
Pork roast ingredients.
Browned Pork butt.
Browned garlic on a white plate.

Browned carrots and onions with red wine.

Browned vegetables with red wine

Red wine braised pork roast with apples and thyme in a white dish.

Right before going into the oven

RED WINE BRAISED PORK ROAST WITH APPLES AND THYME
Adapted from a recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Serves 8

One 4-pound boneless pork butt
2 tbs. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup grapeseed oil, divided
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
3 medium onions, halved lengthwise (root end left intact) and peeled
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1 cup medium-bodied red wine (such as Pinot Noir or a light Cabernet Sauvignon)
4 cups chicken broth
 (preferably homemade)
30 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tart apple (such as Granny Smith), cored and quartered
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 lemon, peeled using a vegetable peeler

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pork roast on a cutting board so the long end faces you and slice through the middle horizontally and nearly to the other side of roast. Open the roast like a book (it should still be attached at one side) and season with about half of the salt and pepper. Close the roast and season the outside with the remaining salt and pepper, then use butcher’s twine to tie the roast at 1-inch intervals.

Heat half the oil in a large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the pork roast, browning it on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side (if it starts to get dark too fast, reduce the heat). Use tongs to transfer the pork to a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and set aside. Pour the fat from the skillet into a medium bowl (cool and discard). Use tongs and paper towels to wipe out the skillet.

Pour the remaining oil into the wiped skillet. Heat the oil over high heat until it smokes, 1½ to 2 minutes. Add the carrots and place the onions and garlic halves cut-side down in the pan. After about 30 seconds, check the garlic and, if nicely browned, remove from the pan and place on a plate (or cook a little longer if needed). Continue to cook the onions and carrots until the onions are very dark (and almost threatening to burn), about 1 minute longer.

Turn off the heat and cool the pan for 1 minute. Turn the heat to medium, pour in the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the broth and vegetables over the pork in the Dutch oven. Add the thyme, apple, rosemary, peppercorns and lemon-zest strips.

Cover the pot, place it in the oven and cook until a long-pronged fork can be inserted into the center and twisted without resistance, about 4 hours.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a large platter. Let the meat cool for 15 to 20 minutes before using a fork to break the roast into chunks. Meanwhile, boil the braising liquid and skim off the fat. Pour the jus over the pork and serve.

So civilized

Smoked trout on a  cracker with plain Greek yogurt and horseradish.

My husband and I were asked to take in a French graduate student for 4 months to live with us. We take on French interns at the office but this was the first time we were asked and considered doing this. Quite frankly, our oldest son had such a great experience living with a family in Tuscany for his semester abroad, we thought it was our turn to pay it forward. Charlotte was due to arrive this past Sunday evening so I wanted to make a special meal but of course one that would hold up if she was two hours delayed in getting through customs. So I made this amazing pork roast – my husband and son said it was better than my version of Julia Child’s Beef Bourguinon – and way easier. Recipe to come!

But while I was making everything, I needed a little snack and had to test the wine that was going into this dish. So I fixed a little smoked trout on a Breton cracker with a smear of plain Greek yogurt, a dab of horseradish and a bit of fresh thyme. With a taste of red wine in a little juice glass and the sunlight streaming through the window, isn’t this just the prettiest little picture?