Tag Archives: red pepper

Rosemary Chicken Florentine Pasta

Back when I was rocking plaid skirts and a blazer in high school (and even before that as a tagalong with my mom’s running club), we used to frequent a quirky eatery called Generous George’s Positive Pizza and Pasta Place.  Fake flamingos and pink and teal paint dripping with kitsch and childhood memorabilia everywhere, it looked a little like Miami Vice and Parker Brothers got together as an interior design firm.  And do I recall a shark hanging from the ceiling?  Or maybe a surf board?  It was probably both.

Aesthetics aside, the place was too fun.  The pizzas featured airy, pliant dough with mounds of toppings and cheese.  And the pastas, all served on a single-sized pizza crust, were epic sized portions that even my dad’s appetite could not slay.  People left the place with takeout boxes and close to a pound of pasta in leftovers.  My mom usually got the red or white clam, Dad loved Old Naples with crumbled sausage and melted cheese, and Lexi usually ordered a personal pizza and pretended to be full after a bite or two so that she could get away with ordering dessert.  I used to be a sucker for the Chicken Romano Fettucine, basically alfredo with chicken, ham, peas and mushrooms, until I ordered the Rosemary Chicken Florentine on a whim.  The first time made me a convert – farfalle tossed with tender chicken, spinach, bacon, roasted red peppers in a rosemary cream sauce.  It was ridiculous.  Preposterous.  I was hooked.

Years have gone by since I’ve rolled down Duke Street in Alexandria to see our old haunt, and it turns out that there’s only my memories of the place to serve me now.  My sister posted on Facebook that the location was demoed and is now a PNC Bank.  I wondered if they auctioned off the merry-go-round pony that was in the main dining room?  Anyways, rather than put on my old school uniform, I decided to relive a classic and make a heaping mess of the beloved pasta.  I cut back the fat on the sauce, using milk instead of cream, and I didn’t have a pizza crust to use as a plate.  But it was still ridiculous.  Still preposterous.  And apparently, I’m still hooked.

Recipe for

Rosemary Chicken Florentine Pasta

2 chicken breasts
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 c. of chicken stock
1 c. of white wine
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
2 bay leaves

4 strips of bacon
4 cloves of garlic
6 oz. of roasted red peppers, sliced
6 oz. of baby spinach
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of chopped rosemary leaves
1 lb. of dried pasta cuts (farfalle, conchiglie, ziti, penne)

6 tbs. of butter
3 tbs. of flour
2 1/2 c. of whole milk
1 c. of locatelli
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder

Begin by cooking the chicken.  Add two boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a saucepan with the stock, wine, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. of white pepper, 1/2 tsp. of black pepper, 2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder.  Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat.  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Remove chicken from poaching liquid and let cool slightly.  Shred with two forks.  Set aside.

Now make the sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in the flour, white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg.  Add the milk, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps.  Turn the heat to medium and whisk until thickened.  Stir in the locatelli and remove from the heat.  Stir in the roasted red peppers.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to box directions.  While the water comes to a boil, add bacon to a skillet and brown.  Toss in garlic, rosemary, spinach and the olive oil and cook until spinach is wilted.  Season with a little extra salt and black pepper and set aside.

When the pasta finishes, drain and toss with the red pepper cream sauce, spinach/chicken/garlic/rosemary mixture.  Top with extra grated locatelli and serve hot.

Hippie Roll

Our pizza night growing up was rarely an affair catered by Pizza Hut or Dominos.  We used to frequent a family-owned joint that most Northern Virginians are probably familiar with called Joes.  We’d get take out from the Bailey’s Crossroads location, ordering doughy Sicilian pies with mounds of thinly-shaved toppings.  Their crusty calzones hid pools of creamy ricotta, melty mozzarella and tender ham.  They made the steak and cheese hero that I continue to judge all others against.  And their hippie rolls, a sausage stromboli of sorts with a tasty touch of crushed red pepper, became the fodder for regular, late night food cravings.  Pliant and chewy pizza dough held sweet roasted peppers and onions and a smidge of mozzarella cheese.  My dad would order a couple and slice them into rings for everyone to snack on, and they rarely lasted long. Continue reading Hippie Roll

Lemon Chicken Shish Kebab

I really love making shish kebab – it’s always praised effusively when made for friends and that pay off comes with very little work.  Buy a bunch of veggies and a little meat, let them hang in some herbs and spices, thread on skewers, grill or broil and call it a day.  This marinade could not be any easier, and best of all, is made with such common pantry staples, you don’t have to do any special shopping ahead of time to get this one on the table.

The best part is that you can absolutely do what you like when making this – if you prefer red meat to chicken, substitute cubes of beef tenderloin or tender lamb.   Like seafood better?  Try this recipe with cubes of swordfish threaded on skewers, separated by bay leaves instead of the vegetables.  It makes a hearty, savory alternative to the traditional red meat or chicken.  And of course, you can bypass the meat altogether and just go with the veggies alone.  Use whatever assortment of vegetables that look the best in the grocery, or are on hand in your fridge – eggplant and squash also make excellent additions.  It’s all good!

Serve these gems with a squeeze of lemon and a side of fluffy rice or pita.  No fuss, no muss and people will swoon for the fresh preparation and bright ingredients.  It’s such a winner, you’ve just gotta try it.

Recipe for

Lemon Chicken Shish Kebab

1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 tsp. of garlic powder
1/2 tsp. of onion powder
1 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cl. of garlic

whole mushrooms (white or crimini)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion
cherry tomatoes
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbs. of olive oil
black pepper
1 tsp of salt

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes and place in a tupperware.  On a clean cutting board, loosely chop garlic and then sprinkle the kosher salt on top.  Using the blade of your knife, drag it across the garlic to mash it into the salt, forming a paste.  Add garlic paste to chicken, along with the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Stir well and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Remove chicken from fridge and let rest on the counter while you prep the veggies.  Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel and place in a bowl.  Add your cherry tomatoes to the bowl.  Cut red and green pepper into 1 inch chunks and add to the mushrooms.  Next, cut onion into 1 inch chunks, making sure to keep the slices of onion together as best you can.  Set aside, separate from the mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes.  In the veggie bowl, add the lemon zest, olive oil, black pepper and salt.  Toss to combine flavors.

Get out some skewers – if you are using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in water first to prevent them from burning.  Thread the chicken and vegetables onto the skewers, alternating between meat and veggies.  Place skewers on a tray to hang out while you continue to assemble the shish kebab.

Lightly grease a grill or a grill pan with canola oil or Pam for grilling and heat to smoking.  Turn heat down to medium and cook kebabs until veggies are charred and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes per side.  Serve.

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

If good Sicilians love the joys of a meatball, then it’s no surprise that good cooking Sicilians know how to whip one up with class.  Consider me a fan, nay a fanatic, of the meatball.  So much so that I love them in all shapes and forms, from the Vietnamese variety as delicious Bo Vien in a steaming bowl of pho, to this recipe for piquant albondigas, Spanish meatballs flavored with paprika and cooked in a red pepper and sherry sauce.  For you red sauce fanatics out there, this one is a lovely change of pace.

Albondigas are often found as part of tapas, a collection of small plates of both hot and cold nibbles hailing from Spain.  These are served in sauce in a small clay dish with nary a bit of pasta or rice as accompaniment.  As such, you’ll probably want to get a good-quality, crusty loaf of bread to use to sop up this absolutely delicious sauce.  Throw in a dish of garlicky olives, manchego cheese, marinated mushrooms, and manchego cheese for a simple Spanish spread.  Or make a few other cooked tapas, like a Tortilla Española (a simple Egg and Potato omlette) or Pollo al Ajillo (chicken sauteed with garlic and sherry), and feast like a champion matador minus the unnecessary bull-slaying.  Olé!

The real trick to these guys, as with most meatballs, is to sear them very well before plunking them into your sauce of choice for slow-cooking.  Doing this allows the meatballs to keep their shape, seal in the juices, and allow them to become meltingly tender after cooking.  You want them dark brown before adding to the sauce to keep things awesome.  And for you, I want nothing less than awesome.

Recipe for

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

1 lb. of ground pork
1 lb. of ground beef
3 cl. of garlic, minced
3 tbs. of chopped flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbs. of fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
2 tsp. of salt
1/4 of a large onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. of bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. of worchestershire sauce
2 tbs. of olive oil

24 oz. jar of piquillo peppers, drained (can use roasted reds instead)
1 16.5 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of sherry
salt and pepper

1/2. c. of chicken broth
1/2 c. of dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Add pork, beef, garlic, parsley, oregano, pepper, salt, onion and worchestershire sauce to a large bowl and mix well.  Mix in egg and bread crumbs and set aside.  Wash hands well and then wet them thoroughly.  Scoop out about 2-3 heaping tablespoons into your hand and roll into a ball.  Place on a plate and continue to roll meatballs.

To a food processor or blender, add the piquillo peppers, the tomatoes with juice,two tbs. of olive oil and the sherry.  Pulse until smooth.  Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.  Pour mixture into a dutch oven and put over medium-low heat to simmer.

Heat the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil in a skillet.  In batches, brown the meatballs on all sides, making sure to sear them well.  As they finish, add them to the piquillo pepper sauce.  When all meatballs are browned an the skillet is still hot, carefully add the white wine to the pan.  As the wine reduces, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the chicken broth and continue to reduce by half.  Pour liquid into the pot with the piquillo sauce and meatballs.  Cover dutch oven and place into the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, checking after a half an hour to make sure that the sauce hasn’t thickened too much.  If it looks as if there is no liquid left, add a 1/2 c. of water, recover and cook for the last 15 minutes.

To serve, remove albondigas to a dish and top with the piquillo pepper sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.