I'm sorry I've been away for so long. In the fall I took a double header trip to India and Connecticut, moved, worked two jobs, and then went back to school. Last week I finished a jam-packed semester of 16 units, since I'm trying to finish my degree in Creative Writing as quickly as possible. It was a great semester that went by really fast, but I'm glad summer is here, and with that the time and energy to cook.
While I was in school I experimented with the recipes of others, and one of my favorites was Turkey Stuffed Peppers from skinnytaste.com. If you haven't tried it I highly recommend it--it's a bit labor intensive, but you can make extra for leftovers or lunch, and it's delicious.
Last night I made dinner for my parents, which I haven't done in quite a while, and the results were far beyond what I expected. I haven't cooked a real meal in weeks, so it was wonderful to put on music, relax, and let the flavors flow. As some of you may know by now I am no longer gluten and dairy free, but I will tag my posts accordingly and will keep dietary limitations in mind.
I'm still a very firm believer that just because there are certain things you can't eat doesn't mean you can't include flavor. The most infuriating thing I was told by my friends at restaurants was "But you can eat a salad." Maybe I don't want a salad!
This recipe is gluten and dairy-free friendly. If you're not gluten free you can use regular pasta, and if you are I recommend quinoa pasta, since it contains protein, is easy to cook, and tastes the same as glutenous pasta.
Spaghetti with Chicken and Cherry Tomatoes
1 pound of Spaghetti (a box)
1 pound Chicken Thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
For the Chicken Marinade:
Fresh Thyme, Chopped
Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of 1 Lemon
For the Sauce:
5 Garlic Cloves, minced
Fresh Basil, chopped
2 cups Cherry Tomatoes, cut into quarters
Fresh Parsley, Chopped
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces and place in a bowl. Pour on enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss. Zest and juice the lemon, or add more if you have a real hankering for lemon. Don't be afraid to add a lot of flavor to the chicken since it only complements the rest of the dish. Chop the thyme and rosemary and mix with the chicken. Feel free to eyeball this to your liking--I like to add enough so that each piece of chicken will get some good flavor. Add the garlic, salt (preferably course), and a lot of fresh cracked black pepper. Mix the ingredients and the chicken well so that it's fully covered. Let sit for 30 minutes or refrigerate and let it marinate overnight.
Chop the basil (about 7-10 leaves) and place in a separate bowl. Mix in the garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes. I prefer to quarter the tomatoes so that they're easier to eat and don't explode when you bite down on them, but keep them whole if you prefer. I add enough olive oil so that it does not cover the mixture in the bowl. If you feel unsure, add about 2 tablespoons and mix the ingredients together. You can always add more before you serve.
If you need to, grate the Parmesan cheese and chop the parsley. You can garnish each dish after you put the pasta in separate bowls, or put the Parmesan and parsley in their own bowls and place them on the table. I suggest this for picky eaters, dairy-free guests, or people who may want extra.
Boil the water for the pasta and warm a skillet to cook the chicken. I cooked the chicken in a cast iron skillet (since my parents have one), but use whatever skillet you like. While the pasta water is getting warm, add some olive oil. Once it starts boiling, add a solid pinch of salt before you put in the pasta. Let the pasta cook until it's about al dente, then drain.
Meanwhile, get your skillet hot (about medium high heat), and then add enough olive oil to coat the pan. Depending on how big your skillet is, either cook the chicken in batches or all at once. Try to get as much of the liquid and herbs in the bowl into the pan as possible. You want all that juicy goodness. The chicken should take about as long to cook as the pasta, but double check your pieces to make sure they're done. Once they're cooked, take a spoonful or two of the pasta water to deglaze the pan so that you can include all the little bits from the bottom in your sauce.
How to put the sauce on your pasta is up to you. One option is to put the pasta back into the pot in which you boiled it, then add all the chicken from the skillet. Toss in the cherry tomato sauce, and stir it all together so that the pasta can get warm and soak up all the liquid. If you think it needs more olive oil, this would be the time to drizzle some more on.
Another option is to pour the pasta in your serving bowl and then scrape the chicken from the skillet on top, then pour on the cherry tomato mixture. I did that, but there was a lot of leftover olive oil in the bottom of the bowl, and the pasta could have used it.
If you're just serving yourself, check for taste and then add salt and pepper if you desire, and then the Parmesan and parsley. Otherwise, have all four on the table (and some crushed red chili pepper for people who need the heat) so guests can serve themselves. This dish serves about four to six.
You can also use this as a base recipe and add more vegetables of your choosing, such as broccoli, snap peas, asparagus, etc. Enjoy!