The idea of mushroom crostini had been kicking around my head since we had dinner at Lupa Trattoria. This is why restaurant meals – cheap or expensive – are worth it to me on occasion: I go home with good ideas that I can’t get out of my head until I’ve put them on a plate. The crostini didn’t quite happen tonight, but the idea led to a really good meal nonetheless.
First, crimini mushrooms, halved and baked in a parchment paper packet with herbs, large sweet cloves of garlic, and a splash of vermouth. I intended to chop these up for the crostini, but they smelled too good to wait. Instead, we ate them over crusty bread with poached eggs, a small salad, and the half bottle of wine we never got around to drinking in SF. Shane commented that it was “like a really fancy breakfast”, and I concur.
Funghi al Cartoccio al Forno from Jamie’s Italy
Or: Farfalle with Shrimp and Arugula
Sometime in July, I planted arugula. Shane isn’t particularly a fan – he likes his salad greens a bit milder – but I hoped for a few salads, maybe a batch of pesto or two. Nothing big. It was already the middle of the summer, after all, and nothing in the garden was looking particularly well. I checked on our neglected little patch yesterday and came home with bags full of veg – roughly five pounds of tomatoes, several gorgeous bell peppers, a ridiculous quantity of banana peppers, and the first harvest of arugula!
I’ve had Jamie’s Italy for a couple of years but haven’t had much use for it – apart from dreaming of making our own porchetta or pasta. This recipe helped me turn a corner in my appreciation of the book, as it was simple, fast, and delicious, all good things for a weeknight or a night when you’re just suddenly and ravenously hungry. We tag-teamed the prep work, with Shane earning a gold star for his handling of the shrimp when I was getting grossed out, and had dinner on the table in about half an hour flat. The sweetness of the tomato paste and shrimp complemented the bite of the arugula and cooled the spice of the red chilies. As with most Jamie Oliver pasta recipes, the ratio of pasta to stuff was off – even with reducing the pasta by 1/3 – but that just meant more little bow-ties for me to snack on. We’ll be making this one again.
Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola from Jamie’s Italy
Tonight I used up the last jar of the tomatoes I canned last summer. The timing was just right on this, as 2nds tomatoes have been appearing at the market the last few weeks, and I suspect we’re right on the cusp of a full-on tomato explosion from both the market and our garden. Nonetheless, I felt like the last jar of tomatoes required something special. Actually, that’s not true. I just happened to be making something special in order to use up the rest of Monday’s chicken, but I feel like it was a suitable vehicle for the last jar of tomatoes: Pollo alla Cacciatora.
Chicken Cacciatore is one of the first dishes I remember making as a pre-teen. Of course that time it came from a jar of Chicken Tonight, and the extent of my preparation involved simmering a couple of chicken breasts in the sauce – but that doesn’t change the nostalgia associated with the dish. My culinary skills and ambitions are a bit more refined than they were back then, so tonight’s Cacciatora was of the from-scratch variety.
I marinated chicken pieces (left over from Monday’s Chicken Breasts Niçoise) in red wine and herbs for an hour, then browned the chicken in a heavy-bottomed skillet, removing it to a warmed plate while I made the sauce, comprised of the rest of the marinade, the aforementioned jar of tomatoes, a handful of capers, anchovies, and a few other things I’ve forgotten in my hunger. Once the tomatoes started to break down, I put the chicken back in the pan, covered it with the lid, and popped it in the oven for an hour. The recipe called for 90 minutes, but the internal temperature hit 160 after an hour, so we pulled it early and served it with bread and a salad.
When we sat down to eat, I realized that I’d made essentially the red wine version of Monday’s dinner – a bit heartier and with a longer cook time – but the same idea. Shane agreed, but said that while he liked the Niçoise he liked this version MUCH better. It was also MUCH better than I remember my childhood Chicken Tonight being. I’m now curious to see how this recipe (from Jamie’s Italy) stacks up against the Mario Batali recipe we made this past fall. Good stuff!
Pollo alla Cacciatora from Jamie’s Italy