Wednesday, June 3, 2015

On the Road to Mediterranean Cuisine in Quebec


Eager to begin my Quebec journey
Traveling to Quebec was my 2nd choice,
Italy was the first dream destination
One of my favorite wanderlust chick flicks is Eat Pray Love.  The protagonist, Liz, played by actor Julia Roberts enjoys a Foodfest that would make Ernest Hemingway blush. The indulgences take place in Rome but tend to make me hungry in the Sierra Nevada. 
At home pasta dish after French Canadian trip
In one scene, Liz announces she is “having a relationship” with her Pizza Napolitana (the scene was shot at L’Antica Pizzeria DaMichele in Naples). And it was difficult not to call the pizza guy.  Not to forget the Figs and Ham when Liz walks through the streets of Rome. The food adventurer passes a woman cutting into a plate of fresh figs and Parma ham—almost a spellbinding ritual to make me want to book a flight abroad ASAP.  
And, of course, when Liz orders and savors each bite of The Spaghetti al’Amatricana, a simple dish, including chili peppers, onions, pancetta, onions—and olive oil, she makes it look like a meal fit for a princess or prince (images of the romantic scene of Lady and the Tramp sharing pasta come to mind).
New recipes, new oils, new stories
Another fine scene for foodies with both health and decadence on the brain, like me, is when soul searching Liz dines alone and prepares Egg, Asparagus, Potato and Ham Salad. When she drizzles olive oil on the food—it lured me to my kitchen pantry to make a meal (like a Stepford wife in a trance I recreated the scene of food to live for. Other food events, like the Thanksgiving dinner with good food and good people, to Liz ordering an array of dishes (she mastered a foreign language) for a group of dear Italian friends is to be cherished.
In Montreal my last night captivated by the menu
Today, I aspire to make my dishes stand out in presentation like the foods viewed in Eat Pray Love. But in yesteryear as a Tom boy, I flunked Home Economics in junior high. Worse, my mother didn’t like me creating dishes in the kitchen. I didn’t follow directions. I always modified cookbook recipes. But today, for the health and flavor of it, I am a fearless spiritual warrior in the kitchen. Cooking, baking, dining, and traveling to different countries can be a rebellious adventure each and every time for me, much like Liz embarking on food trips in Rome.
Quebec City, Fond Memories
a cross necklace and black and red checkered jacket
and navy infinity scarf

            Here, take a close-up look at a few of my favorite Italian-style recipes I’ve created and dished up for myself, a woman from the San Francisco Bay Area living in the Sierra for more than a decade. I escape into the world of olive oil and use a touch of Mediterranean flair to my life without whisking off to Rome.
Vegetables, olive oil, vinegar, and fresh warm baguettes
with real butter was comfort food 3000 miles from home

Chicken Cacciatore with Oils
* * *
Enter Chicken Cacciatore, which means “hunter” in Italian. It’s a complete meal made “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, bell pepper and chicken. You can bake it or make it in a skillet on the stove top. A common recipe calls for olive oil, a variety of chicken parts, wine, and tomatoes. This recipe is inspired by my mother’s Chicken Cacciatore. My version is like her tasty and memorable dish, sort of.  But, she used canned tomatoes (I do not like canned or frozen foods except for all-natural ice cream), a whole chicken, spices in cans, and white pasta, ingredients used in the 20th century. Also, the dish would simmer for hours, unlike my meal with fresh stuff.
My fantasy still waiting
As a 21st century post-hippie health-nut, I put in the oil, left out the wine, turn to skinless chicken breasts, and embrace fresh Roma tomatoes. I cook the meal faster rather than slower to save the nutrients of the vegetables. No crock pot for this one. And, of course, I use organic ingredients and whole grain pasta.  (In the 1980s pasta grew in popularity; it’s still a popular staple teamed with olive oil in my diet repertoire.) A hearty stew, like this, is comfort food on cool autumn days.  When I cook Chicken Cacciatore it brings back a sense of security and warmth of my home in the suburbs. The aroma of garlic, onions, and veggies lingers in my home each time with this recipe of mine, a timeless favorite.
1 tablespoon each olive oil, herbal olive oil, and European style butter                                      
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Pepper to taste
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped                                 
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped    
4 organic basil leaves                                                 
1 24-ounce jar of organic
2 cups whole wheat rotini, cooked                            
Marinara sauce with olive oil
On medium heat, heat oil and butter in large skillet on stovetop. Add chicken (rinsed with water), sprinkle with pepper, cook about 5-6 minutes, flip over for another 5 minutes. Place on plate.
In another large skillet add onion, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, basil leaves, and marinara sauce. Stir for several minutes. Add chicken breasts. Cover and simmer on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes; turn to simmer for another 15 minutes or till chicken is tender and cooked.

Tip: If sauce is too thick, add a bit of water. Serve on top of whole grain pasta (follow cooking instructions) served with warm French bread dipped in garlic or basil olive oil and a tossed green salad. Serves 2-4 (depending on size of chicken breasts) with leftovers.  (Note: All-natural store-bought sauces are doable but to lose sodium to trans fats, make your own with fresh tomatoes, herbs, and spices.)
Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated

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