August 20th, 2006

yummy italian dinner



There's this family farm up the road that boasts it's the oldest in the entire USA.  it's been in business since 1632 or 1642 or something (I can't find their website, how not-ironic).  (Jenna just came over and told me it's been in business for 364 years so indeed 1642 was the number).  Anyways, Jenna has been making all the dinners lately, and it was time to bust out the spatula for her.

Above is a can of organic (whatever that means) whole tomatoes, tomato fettucine, a hothouse tomato, a red onion, 3 mushrooms, a garlic, a green pepper, a loaf of crusty italian bread, and a bunch of basil with the roots.  When I got it all home, I put the basil in a carafe Jenna owns and it's actually perking back up.  Too bad I cut half of it off 10 minutes later!

Not in the picture, I also bought 3 boneless chicken fillets that had been marinating in a tomato-basil base (hence the theme for the night).  I had to steal a jar of tomate paste, as well, from the kitchen.

I poured some extra virgin olive oil into an all iron skillet and heated it up.  Once it was warm (about 6 on the dial), I tossed all of the onion, diced, into it.  I usually let those simmer for quite a while before I get any futher, because they really do take some time to soften up and caramalize.  Next in went half of the green pepper, and then shortly after 1/4 of the garlic bulb, crushed.  I turned the heat down as the water came out of them.  Such a large pile of veggies to start; such a small pile to finish!

So while those were simmering, I started a nonstick pot with the whole tomatoes and the tomato paste.  Once it warmed up, I put in half the basil, chopped quite a bit but not finely, plus the quartered mushrooms, the other half of the green pepper, salt, and pepper.  After a little bit, I just poured the skillet in using the spatula, and let it all boil.  It wasn't on high (still around 6), but the sauce was bubbling and losing water at a prodigious pace.  This was a good thing because those whole tomatoes were nowhere near being spaghetti sauce.

Around this time I put the chicken fillets into an aluminium teepee, airtight, with a little extra water poured in (to generate steam).  I put them in for 30 minutes at 400F.

About 15 minutes later, I got the pasta going.  Wow, it really stained the water red.  I have to wonder how they make that stuff.  It ended up being very much less red than it was in the packaging.  Interesting.  So that boiled up rather quickly.  I usually do it beyond al dente, but I took it out around then and it still ended up where I tend to like it.  Dumb luck. 

So the sauce had really boiled down about 1.5 inches at this point, and was thick and exactly what you'd expect.  It was a little tart, so I put a tablespoon or so of granulated sugar in and stirred.  That was about all I needed to do.  The sauce ended up sans oregano, and I think this is perhaps how I ended up with the first sauce that wasn't entirely bad.  Oregano is not like basil -- it's incredibly easy to overdo and I think my preference for a while is going to be skipping it entirely.  Basil, on the other hand, seems very difficult to overdo.  I suspect I could have put the entire basil bunch in without damaging the taste entirely.  (I'm glad I didn't, though)

Mixed that all up, took the chicken out, and tossed it on a plate on the desk with the crusty italian bread, a greek salad (i'm very glad neither of us are so pretentious that we couldn't taint the theme with a rouge salad -- we have an unhealthy fetta thing going on basically) with the eighthed hothouse tomatoes, and a bottle of red bicicleta syrah that Jenna got on the way home (I don't pick out the wine because ... well obviously)