Travelling really helps you put things in perspective. Having recently returned from an amazing week visiting friends in Switzerland and then touring around the beautiful Tuscan countryside, we were nonetheless happy to be home! The food in Switzerland was amazing as always, especially the wonderful dairy products. In Tuscany, we were buffeted with a sensory overload from the sight and smells and tastes of the olive groves, lemon trees, vineyards and fields of fresh herbs. Upon reflection on our favorite dining experiences, we agreed that our favorite meals were the simplest ones- those that highlighted the best of the ingredients that were used to prepare the meals. Of course, we have to admit that the scenery adds a lot to the dining experience as well.
|Our reward after a 4 hour hike|
|Everything served at this mountain top family home is grown on their farm. All of the cream, cheese, ice cream etc. is thanks to their cow, "Gloria."|
We prepared this meal this weekend to celebrate our homecoming with some of our kids. Grilling the chicken, pears and mushrooms really intensified their flavours. Using lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs in the dished helped to remind us of some of the wonderful meals that we enjoyed in Tuscany, and also to brighten the flavours and take the simple ingredients up a notch. Enjoy!
Flattened Chicken Marinated with Chipotle Pepper Paste
1 4-5 lb chicken
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup smoked chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1 tsp honey
To prepare the Chipotle Pepper Paste: It is important to use the garlic press when mincing the garlic in this recipe, since you want the garlic to contribute to the texture of the marinade paste. Combine chopped smoked chipotle peppers, pressed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and honey in a small bowl.
Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 10 minutes, then reduce to MEDIUM-LOW, by turning off the middle burner(s).
To prepare the chicken, cut out the back and neck of the chicken using kitchen shears. Open up the chickens legs and flatten the chicken, skin side up, in a large baking sheet. Season it inside and out with salt and pepper. Press down firmly on the breast bones to flatten it. Massage the skin to loosen it from the flesh, then pour the paste under the skin and rub to apply paste all over the chicken.
Place the flattened chicken directly onto the grids, over the unlit burners, leaving the outside burners lit at MEDIUM setting. Close the lid and cook for approximately 40-45 minutes, checking occasionally. Use the meat thermometer to determine when the chicken is finished. The temperature should read 165-170°F (77°C) at the breast. Remove the chicken and let rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes.
Linguine with Grilled Mushrooms, Lemon and Thyme Sauce
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
½ cup dry white wine
1 pound linguineTo finish:
3 tbsp parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, then reduce to MEDIUM. Toss cleaned mushrooms with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh thyme and salt, to coat. Spread mushrooms out on a grill topper, then place on grids of barbecue. Close lid and cook for 5 minutes, open lid and turn the mushrooms. Close lid and grill for 3-4 more minutes, until nicely browned. Remove and set aside for later.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to instructions on the package.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and add chopped garlic, thyme, lemon zest and dried chili flakes. Saute for 3 minutes, until garlic is translucent, then add white wine, lemon juice and grilled mushrooms. Reduce by half, then add ½ cup of cooking liquid from the pasta and reduce by half again.
Dump strained pasta into the sauté pan, with the mushroom mixture. Toss with parmigiano reggiano, chopped parsley and basil and freshly ground black pepper.Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Arugula Salad with Grilled Pears and Feta Cheese
6 cups baby arugula
½ cup greek feta cheese
½ pecans, toasted
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
Clean barbecue grids thoroughly, then brush with vegetable oil. Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to MEDIUM.
Cut and core pears and brush liberally with lemon juice. Place pear quarters on barbecue, close lid and grill for 5 minutes. Open lid, turn pears and grill for an additional 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine ingredients for the vinaigrette in a glass bottle and shake vigourously. Assemble salad by tossing arugula and feta cheese in a salad bowl with the vinaigrette. Plate, then top with grilled pear segments and toasted pecans.