Friday, October 3, 2008



If you've followed these recipes at all over the months, you know that I'm always on the lookout for quick and easy one-pot meals for weeknights. They make having a well-balanced meal convenient. You can get all the food groups in the dish in one forkful, and I like the mingling of the different flavors. Others must feel the same way, since this type of cooking is so popular. This is another winner from Cooks Illustrated.

A plug for Cooks Illustrated: if you like food food and don't know about this magazine, check it out. It is the guiding light behind America's Test Kitchen on PBS. Their speciality is re-working classic favorite recipes, from cookies to stir-frys and everything imaginable in between, that have either gone stale from overuse or, despite their popularity, never seem to come out like their pictures for the average home cook. An ideal for a particular dish is decided upon, and then its recipe is deconstructed step-by-step to figure out its weaknesses and eliminate them. New and unexpected life is given to such basic classics as home-made tomato soup (canned tomatoes are fine, but heighten their flavor by roasting them first) to macaroni and cheese (cheddar is not the be all and end all). What they come up with is usually truly revelatory.

The magazine is also sort of a Consumers Reports for the food world. They take no ads (and therefore like CR is heavily, sometimes irritatingly, self-promoting) and so are free to do tests of popular brands of various foods and kitchen equipment. They explain their methods and how they come to their conclusions. And yet another useful feature is novel kitchen hints sent in by readers. (Rest assured these hints are above the level of Heloise's endless hints on how to extend the life of worn-out panty hose.)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces ziti (2 /12 cups)
2 3/4 cups water
1 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces broccoli florets (4 cups)
1 cup roasted red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or Durch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until most, but not all, of the pink color has disappeared and the chicken is lightly browned around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the ziti, 2 cups of the water, and the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is very thick and syrupy and almost completely absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add the broccoli, red bell pepper and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Uncover and return the heat to high. Stir in the Parmesan and reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing more grated Parmesan at the table, if desired.


Peewit said...

Once again an example of divided by a common language (although in this case Italian!)I had to look up Ziti to find it is the type of pasta we call penne here in the UK.

I have long since learnt the "English" for cilantro and zucchini as I have over time accumulated a few American cookbooks. I'm sure the reverse is no doubt true.

Meanwhile, back at the dish; this one looks like even one my fussy 6 year old would like. I'll try it next week and report back

Mim said...

Looks delicious Ralph and I will be trying this soon.
Well my projects are small compared to what you are doing.
Having lived in 5 houses or apartments in the past 7 years, including selling two places and buying the one I am in.. it all adds up to stress.
Especially with the markets/finances as they are.
But hope it doesn't deter your building your dream home!
So many decisions.
Carry on, is what I tell myself.

Ralph said...

Interesting, Peewit! In the stores here, penne and ziti are the same shape, but penne is cut on the diagonal while ziti has straight edges. At least that's the difference I've been able to discern. I didn't know what ziti looked like, either, until I went to the grocery store!

I'll be anxious to see how it goes over with the family. Possible additions/changes: sund dried tomaotes (I think they'd be good) and green beans instead of broccoli.

Ralph said...

Right, Mim. If you've read some of my recent posts you've seen I've been stressed. But I'm feeling better now. Good luck with the job!