- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

After a conversation with a friend who claims to be culinarily challenged, I began to wonder if those of us who cook for a living make things too hard for everyone else.

My friend was complaining that she couldn’t possibly prepare dinner because her supermarket doesn’t stock a lot of the trendy ingredients she thinks are requisite for a good meal. Nor does she have a couple of hours to spare in the evening. I don’t think she’s alone.

Couples who frequently dine out make restaurant-quality meals the standard for home cooking. Those cooks are concerned that if they haven’t topped a dish with three sauces or garnished it with a rare herb, they’ve failed.

That’s not the case.

There’s no need for home cooks to duplicate a restaurant experience, unless they want to for the fun of it or for a special occasion. In fact, when most chefs dine in, they prepare simple dishes.

The goal of home cooking, to my thinking, should be to put fresh, wholesome ingredients together in a way that makes both the process and the meal enjoyable.

The following menu features recipes for potato salad and sauteed chicken.

Both dishes are familiar and easy to make but made here with a twist to elevate the flavors.

Potato-and-prosciutto salad

4 small-medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

Salt

tablespoon drained capers

1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped

1 ounce prosciutto, cut in strips

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water to cover for 20 minutes or until fork tender.

Drain, cool to lukewarm and place in salad bowl. Add capers, celery and prosciutto. Stir oil and vinegar together in a cup. Pour over the potato mixture and mix well. Season to taste with pepper.

Makes 2 servings.

Note: This salad is well-seasoned without the addition of salt.

Sage-and-lemon chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

4 large or 6 small sage leaves

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound till inch thick. Press 2 or 3 sage leaves on surface of each chicken breast. Combine flour and salt and pepper to taste on a plate. Gently dust chicken with seasoned flour.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add chicken, sage sides down, and brown for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn chicken over; brown 3 minutes longer. Set chicken aside, and pour off any fat. Add lemon juice and broth to the skillet, and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon.

Return chicken to skillet and simmer it for 5 minutes or until heated through. Place chicken on 2 serving plates. Add butter to skillet and swirl to melt. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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