Friday, April 25, 2008

Pasta with Stuff

Mom's Emergency Pasta

When I was a kid, my mom prided herself on getting a good, fast meal on the table, even when there was little to nothing fresh in the house. This pasta dish was an invention of hers, though I'm sure it has some "official" counterpart in the culinary lexica. We could always count on having an onion, some pasta, a chicken cutlet and a jar of artichoke hearts around, but it was greatly improved with the addition of sun-dried or fresh tomatoes and red bell peppers. As I ate this with some frequency growing up, it is definitely my idea of comfort food. And for comfort food, it's pretty damn healthy. To be even more virtuous, and to add a touch of green on the side, I served this with steamed asparagus doused in a simple vinaigrette .

Ingredient of the Day: Artichoke Hearts

Man, I love me some artichoke hearts. They can make a boring dish interesting with zero effort. Mom usually bought the small glass jars of them marinated in seasonings, but the plain canned variety might be best for making dip. Some people don't like artichoke hearts because the ends are occasionally woody. If the pieces look smaller in the jar, they're less likely to have tough bits. If you're really obsessive, you can of course check them before you dump them in your food.

Mom's Emergency Pasta
1/2 lb pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 chicken breasts, sliced into strips
2 fresh medium tomatoes, diced
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, with marinade
1/2 cup white wine
Splash of lemon juice
Dash of sugar
Salt, pepper, basil, parsely

While water for pasta heats up, sautee the garlic until brown, then add onions and sautee until browned. Add red pepper and sautee until slightly browned, then add chicken. Let the chicken get a little brown, then add the tomatoes and artichoke hearts, and the white wine. Season with lemon juice, and seasonings to taste. Add the sugar if your tomatoes weren't very sweet, or if you'd like to soften the overall tanginess. You can also add a little balsamic vinegar, if you like. Once your pasta is cooked (but not overcooked) strain it and mix it into the pan over low heat, and let the flavors incorporate a bit. I like mine sprinkled with grated parmesean cheese. Mmm...

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