Sunday, November 13, 2011

Italian & More Italian

Dinner: November 11

My mom was in town for a quick weekend visit to meet my pup, Vinny. Oh, and I was here, too. Her eldest daughter. Her flesh and blood. ;)

Anyway, I hosted a small dinner for her, along with friends Ev and John, on Friday night. My choices were based on several factors, one of which was time, as I didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. Another factor was the type of food my mother would truly enjoy without feeling like she was overindulging. Courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis’ “Everyday Italian” cookbook, I found two recipes that suited the occasion.

The first was chicken saltimbocca, a rolled chicken cutlet dish with spinach and prosciutto inside. The recipe for 6 servings was as follows:

  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 6 chicken cutlets, pounded flat
  • 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 14 ounces chicken broth
  • Lemon juice from one lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Basics: Remove excess water from spinach; mix with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Season cutlets with salt and pepper, cover each with slice of prosciutto and layer of spinach, and top with freshly grated cheese. Roll from tapered end up and secure with toothpicks. Add rolls to heated, olive-oiled skillet, cook until golden brown. Add broth and lemon juice, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken cooks through. Remove chicken, boiled sauce until reduced and thickened, season with more salt and pepper, drizzle over chicken.

The second dish was caponata, a dish full of vegetables as a side to the chicken. The recipe for 6 servings was as follows:

  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juices
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Basics: Put celery in heated, olive-oiled pan, sautée 2 minutes. Add eggplant until softened. Add onion until translucent. Add red pepper until crisp-tender. Add diced tomatoes with juices and oregano. Simmer until mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar, sugar, capers, salt, and pepper.

These dishes were a big hit! Everyone loved both of them. We were a little nervous about the saltimbocca at first because the rolling of the chicken with the stuffing was tough, and those suckers did not look like they would stay together. But they did, and they cooked very nicely, producing a very tasty product in the end. The caponata looked as if it had too many vegetables, but we just added more olive oil until the ingredients blended better. The caponata was a refreshing and healthy plate-o-veggies and a fabulous side dish for the saltimbocca. It took less than an hour to cook both dishes from start to finish, which was also a plus. My Italian grandma would’ve been proud.

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