|NOT my photo. Thank you, sunwingtomatoes.ca for this image. What with all the stirring, slicing, knife-sharpening, and stretching, I forgot to take a picture.|
I love cooking. Before I cook, I like shopping for food. Before that, I enjoy making a menu and grocery list. And before all of the afore-mentioned activities, I like to read cookbooks. Hello, my name is Celeste and I am a foodie. One piece of my favorite home-made fudge is too many. One thousand, not enough.
Now I’ve married another pro-dining, shopping, cooking, recipe-reading type. We watch the Food Network and drool. Listen to “Check, Please, Bay Area” for restaurant reviews. Chop, dice, mince, and fret over our knives. We would hold a garage sale to rid ourselves of our sorry cutlery along with the wonky dutch oven but these are the only items we currently have in our condo with which we could part. The cost of posting sale flyers would exceed the profit. It would be cheaper to fly back to Birmingham and retrieve my things from storage. I could open the storeroom and have a proper good-riddance to those things that even my children politely refuse...BEFORE lugging the whole lot westward.
I digress. Again. Back to the present. So many directions that this blog could take....hmmmm. Selective living. (Wait. Anne Morrow Lindbergh already wrote the seminal book about this topic.) Moving on. Clutter. Possessions that possess us. Eventually I will get around to all of these. But today another post is percolating.
Actually not percolating. Because we now use a French press to make coffee. At least, one of us does. I think he finds it challenging, like getting that first serve over the net or sinking a 47 foot putt. From the rough. My take, admittedly, is pure conjecture and subject to dispute. Speaking factually, a drip coffeemaker (stainless/black, preferably one cup at a time brew) is superior. Well, superior crosses that line to personal preference. Okay. I will give you that. Let’s say “simpler and more consistent.” (In my mind that equates with superior but who am I to say.)
So I here I sit at my Mac, sipping hot tea, because the coffeemaker is still asleep. We’ll have a mug of his excellent brew when he awakens. In the meantime, I have decided to expand my subject matter and write my first food blog. A la Bill and Celeste.
The U.S. Open did get in the way of our Saturday food television. My ongoing effort to compile an electronic cookbook paid off in spades, however. I was able to scan family favorites, watch Federer’s backhand, and comment on a couple of questionable attire choices simultaneously. Does it get better than this? Food, fashion and sport all in one fell swoop.
Before I continue, I must add another element to this heady mix. Hang in there if you want to understand the title. I have back problems. Oy vey. Just ask me. Dr. Bill, my physical therapy guru/husband, thinks that watching television is something one does while stretching. Never sitting. Oh, no. Sitting is b-a-d. I would tell you about load and torque and a bunch of other terrible things that happen to the human body while lounging semi-upright on a chaise-longue if I could. I do know that these stretches coupled with walking and exercise work. Know that I do not mock Bill’s approach. Indeed, I urge him to write, to share his experience and expertise. This is where my background as a web designer comes into the picture. Hopefully, a little input from me will expedite moving knowledge from his head to the ether.
Having shared this, you can see how heady our dinner conversations are.
“More chicken cacciatore, dear?”
“No, but this is an excellent recipe.”
“Yes, indeed. Giada’s. I can’t take credit.”
“Amazing we finished cooking before midnight. Those sorry knives. I spent more time sharpening than chopping.”
“How’s your rotator cuff, Bill?”
“Fine, sweetheart. But remember, when you use your arm excessively, you can connect a lower back problem with a neck issue.”
“Thank you, dear.”
“I noticed, though, that you had your weight on one leg while you stirred, Celeste. And there was considerable side-bending, too. When you catch yourself doing this, remember to interrupt the position. Frequently. The body responds well to un-loading.”
“I will. You know, I’ve had cacciatore that was more tomato-ey but this is quite good.”
“I agree. And I like both versions. These spices from Berkeley Bowl are a great buy, aren't they? By the way, did you notice Tsonga hyper-extending his knee in that match? Federer was, too, but not as much.”
“Yes, I did.” (Consider not walking in front of me these days. I notice side-bending, uneven shoulders, and foot drop instantly. I do thank the poor suffering souls ahead of me because they remind me to keep my chin in, my head back, and my shoulders straight.) “Dessert, dear?”
“Of course. Let’s have it on the patio.”
And so we sat, in the semi-darkness, a candle flickering, discussing pastry in the blackberry cobbler, finishing off a glass of Clos du Bois, northcoast, homegrown, produced in Mendocino County. By George. Professional winemaker. Part-time Santa Claus. Full-time friend to many. A veritable Godsend for one who has often purchased wine on the basis of “best graphic label design”. Granted, my choices might have tasted atrocious but I always had the best looking bottle at the party.
As I recounted a new recipe, Bill reached over and lovingly touched my chin. To straighten my head and neck. And I smiled. Because I had envisioned such a scenario occurring...during our wedding vows.
This brings me to the title. While shopping at Safeway, a sweet lady bumped my cart. The woman, by the way, was so kind. She must have noticed my sudden intake of breath or the clenched jaw. Asked if I was okay. I said that I was fine and added that the pained expression reflected a different sort of ache. I was deciding if I should pay off the Parents Plus student loan or buy a box of cereal. She laughed and said she was having similar thoughts. Nice moment. Now, back to the little accident. One tiny move and something in my knee gave way. Or so I thought. Dr. Bill turned the corner and immediately noticed my limp. Actually, a rank amateur would have noticed my exaggerated gait. (I get a tad testy when I experience acute pain.)
“What happened, dear?”
I described the events and informed him that I had wrenched my knee and now my toes were cramping. Horribly.
“Ok, let’s stop here. Now, your back....”
“Sweetheart, I must not have explained properly. It’s my knee. Not my back.”
“Well, actually, dear, the L-5 nerve root frequently refers pain to the knee. What you describe more clearly connotes back involvement than knee injury.”
“Okay. I can make it to the car.”
“No, I want to you stop here and get your leg up.”
Which is why a lady walked up and said to me, as my husband lugged my left lower extremity on top of the loaded grocery cart in the middle of the ethnic food aisle, “Do you need help?”
Actually, I do. What wine does one serve with grilled salmon, dill sauce...and a rousing discussion of the iliopsoas and vasovagal syncope? George?
And so for my first food blog I give you Giada’s Chicken Cacciatore. Not even my own recipe. But hey, my head is straight. Bon apetit! (You’ll have to wait for Bill’s book to get pain relief.)
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis and The Food Network
Inactive Prep Time:
4 chicken thighs (note: we used boneless thighs and breasts because we already had these on hand and just shortened the cooking time)
2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (the side of the chef’s knife smushed these fine...chopping was another issue)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.
In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.