Contrary to what you may believe, I do, every once in a while, make simple dinners and desserts. More often than you’d think, in fact. I’ve been trying my hand at a few classics. I mean, classics are classic for a reason. They’re tried and true. Reliable. Foolproof. So it’s high time I shared with you a few classic, good old standbys that I can throw together after a long day of work and know that they’ll be good. This way, you can throw them together too.
This look into classic dishes was inspired by a slow food campaign at my company. Our café sold, for $10 (!!!), all the ingredients (except for a chicken) necessary for a hearty, healthy dinner for a family. They even provided recipes — chicken, salad, greens and pasta, and fresh fruit for dessert. This was too good to pass up. So I lugged home my bag of groceries and laminated recipe card.
I made the chicken with just a few modifications, using chicken cutlets instead of a whole chicken and a nice addition of lemon juice. I used chard to make a minestrone. And voilà – a few dinners and lunches for the week.
These recipes aren’t rocket science, but they’re great ones to have in your repertoire. They pretty much use ingredients that are probably already in your fridge and pantry. The most difficult step is rough chopping some vegetables. And then you leave the dish to cook while you write a blog post. You just need to check on the chicken or soup every once in a while. C’est tout. That’s all there is, folks.
Chicken and root vegetables
This chicken takes about 45 minutes to an hour, from start to finish. Most of the time, the chicken is just baking in the oven and you need to check it every 10-15 minutes to mix and baste.
– 1+ pound of boneless skinless chicken breast (cutlets) – or you could use chicken parts, or boneless thighs
– 3 large carrots
– 3 large parsnips
– 4-5 celery stalks
– 1 onion
– several cloves of garlic
– 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
– olive oil
– 1/4 C lemon juice (to taste)
Prep. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Rough chop all the vegetables – try to get them approximately the same size (except the garlic of course).
Fill. Scatter the vegetables in a pan large enough to fit them more or less in a single layer. Douse with olive oil (maybe 2T) and sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Season the chicken with salt and pepper too. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and douse the chicken with a little more olive oil (another 1-2 T) – you can omit this if you are using chicken with skin. Pour in the lemon juice.
Bake. Bake the chicken for about 45 minutes, stirring and basting every 10-15 minutes. Add water or more lemon juice if you notice that there aren’t many juices and the corners of your pan are starting to burn. The chicken is officially ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. I generally take mine out at 155ºF, but I’m wild and crazy. If the vegetables don’t cook as fast as the chicken, take the chicken out when it is ready and let the vegetables finish baking. Add the chicken back to the pan to warm back up for 5 minutes.
Eat. Take it out. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, and then serve it straight from the pan. You can even eat it out of the pan if no one is looking.
I found this recipe in the New York Times earlier this year. You can freeze the soup before you add the chickpeas and chard. When you want to eat, just re-heat and add in chickpeas and chard for about 10 minutes.
– olive oil
– 6 carrots
– 1 onion
– 1 T chopped garlic (yup, I use the stuff in the jar)
– several handfuls of chard – separate stems from leaves
– 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
– 7 C water
– 1 t dry thyme
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 parmesan rind
– 2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans
– 1 C pasta
– extra parmesan
Prep. Rough chop the carrots and onions – try to get them approximately the same size chunks. Wash the chard really well. Remove the stems from the chard and rough chop as you would celery. Make a few lengthwise cuts in the chard leaves and then cut them widthwise into thin strips (“chiffonade” if you want to be all fancy about it).
Simmer. Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pot. Add all the vegetables except for the chard leaves. Saute until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, water, thyme, bay leaves, and parm. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Be careful not to set the heat too high because the soup will bubble over. Believe me – I know.
Store (optional). If you’re going to eat the soup at a later time, you can freeze or refrigerate the soup at this point. When you want to serve, proceed with the rest of the steps.
Simmer again. Rinse the chickpeas and add along with the chard leaves. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the chickpeas heat through and the chard wilts but still keeps its color.
Boil. Don’t boil the soup! Boil the pasta as directed, to just shy of al dente. Spoon into the soup right before serving (otherwise it will absorb the hot soup liquid and get overcooked and mushy).
Eat. Carefully. Let the soup cool off a bit before eating. I managed to burn my lip – and I was in pretty bad shape. Sprinkle with extra parm if you want.