I am often tempted to add extra components to dishes, and whether they need modification is an issue that arises often. For this dinner of whole-wheat penne, mozzarella-topped chicken, roasted asparagus and nothing-done-to-it arugula, I originally planned to use some “UglyRipe” heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs in a slow-simmered sauce, but when I composed the plate, I found myself tempted to call off the sauce entirely and leave the dish well enough alone. Now, not everyone loves olive oil and pecorino romano cheese as much as I do, so if that’s not sauce enough for you maybe you would not even stop to ponder the issue. But for me, it is worthy of contemplation.
Did I use it? The answer lies just after the jump!
Yeah, duh. Of course I used it. What else would I have done with it? I spent real money on those tomatoes! Heirlooms ain’t cheap, dawg.
So anyway, here’s how to do what I did — a fairly easy weeknight meal (even easier if you skip the sauce!). This includes my favorite, ridiculously easy and delicious way of making asparagus.
Simple Slow Sauce:
1/2 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Heirloom Tomatoes, diced
Herbs, herbs, herbs — I used basil, sage and parsley
Bay leaf (this is technically an herb I guess, but whatever, it’s different)
Freshly Ground Pepper
You can probably guess how to put this together, but here goes:
Sweat the onions in some oil on medium heat for like three minutes
Add the garlic, stir.
After 90 seconds, add the tomatoes and everything else. Drop the heat to low and let it ride while you make everything else. Make sure you stir it occasionally, though. Constant vigilance.
Freshly Ground Pepper
Sliced Almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 550 F. You want to blast these greenies.
Snap the tough ends off of the asparagus.
Pile the asparagus on a baking sheet, or a baking dish if you don’t have a big sheet.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the asparagus and mix well.
Spread the asparagus out on the baking sheet so that the stalks have some personal space — you want them to roast, not steam.
Pop it in the oven for about 4 minutes, give the asparagus a turn and put them back in for about 3 more minutes — your cooking time will depend on your oven and how crunchy you like your vegetables.
I am sure you know how to cook a chicken tenderloin, so let me just say what I like to do.
My go-to spices are salt and pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Thyme, sage, and red pepper flakes make frequent appearances as well.
For this meal, I cooked the chicken on rather lower heat than usual, and after I flipped them I topped them some fresh mozzarella. Low heat = longer cooking time = more time for the cheese to melt. You can always pop them under the broiler for a few seconds, too.
At this point in your life, you probably know how you like your pasta, and you probably like your pasta al dente (hint hint). If not, though, that’s your business and I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. Just remember that pasta will keep cooking after you strain it — but it won’t cook that much. Also, don’t rinse it to cool it off. That’s a surefire way to wash away some great flavor.
Putting it together:
I had some arugula lying around like a no-good loafer, so I enlisted it in this dish as a comfortable bed for the chicken. Here’s how it came together, pre-sauce:
You’ll notice I threw a bunch of basil (not literally a bunch, but a good amount) on the pasta. That’s because it’s delicious. And right there you have a perfectly good meal, albeit a rather dichromatic one. But since we made that sauce a couple hundred words ago, let’s make emulate the Italian flag here.
Daaaaayuuumn! Taste party. But the question remains open — Ought we to sauce? What are your thoughts on the matter, dear reader? And do you think the question should be “Ought we sauce?” And do I need another question mark in the previous sentence, since the question mark there is part of the quoted text? If so, where should I put it? Inside the quotation mark (because that’s where question marks usual go in American English)? Or outside (because two question marks in a row is weird)?