Between our resident nanny/tourista extraordinaire wanting to see all the sights of the city and Dave's crazy work schedule, replete with dozens of work dinners and social events (you can stop rolling your eyes, I promise that 4 course Italian dinners get burdensome after a while), we literally ate out of the house an average of 5 times per week. And poor Joey? Well, he tasted his way through a patate fritte tour of the Eternal City. Except for some terrifying situations, where french fries weren't on the menu...and then we froze.
What to do? We would start frantically pouring over the menu, trying to identify safe dishes while slapping away desperate hands from the omnipresent breadbasket. Um, how about carrotes julianne con limone? Or tacchino arrosta con rocket? Maybe some carcifora romana?
Before we knew it, we'd identified more than a few winners, and we made the startling discovery that our kids don't only tolerate but actually really like artichokes, broccoli, roasted red peppers, carrots marinated in olive oil and garlic, and most surprisingly to me, caprese salad - and the whole thing, not just the mozzarella like their weirdo mom.
So we've been cooking more meals at home these last couple weeks, and I'm slowly learning to shift from bean and corn-tortilla centric dishes to preparing meals using whatever is fresh and in season at our market down below the apartment.
Right now, strawberries, artichokes, fennel (gag), and asparagus are all in season, and therefore cheap and abundant. It's not like in the US where you can find whatever produce you're looking for, either; they don't seem to import out-of-season goodies from across the globe, which isn't an entirely bad thing, I'm guessing.
Which brings me to last night's dinner. I am no photographer, and I am an embarrassment to the blogosphere with my utter and complete lack of technical knowledge, so please forgive these fancy caption-less photos which are in no way worthy of pinterest ... or really even of your continued attention. But I took them and I've come this far in my naptime posting, so:
Paleo/Gluten-free Chicken Parmesan with Roman Artichokes
(Serves 2 adults and 2 hungry-ish toddlers)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, filleted into thin slices
8-10 large cherry tomatoes
4 oz parmesan cheese (powdered fakey fake is fine. Mine was powdered real, but I'm sure it still would've given a real Italian a stroke to see me dump it from a plastic bag rather than shred it myself)
a few sprigs of basil
4 cloves of garlic
3 artichokes, trimmed and with stems intact (probably hard to find in the US? I don't know)
salt and pepper
First things first, call your husband and ask him to bring home some red wine. Then, unwisely allow the kids to climb up on the chairs next to the table you're working on, so they can help de-stem the tomatoes and practice grabbing the knife by it's blade.
|After a few minutes of dicing and cutting, leave the children unattended in the kitchen to wander out on the balcony to snap a picture of St. Peter's in the sunset glow. I will never get tired of this view.|
|So good. And edible in their entirety. How did I not know this for 30 years?|
|You can melt some softer cheese on top of them towards the end of the cooking process. I had gouda on hand, so that's what I used.|
Drain the blanched tomatoes and proceed to split them open with a fork (careful, they squirt) and smash them into oblivion. Add parmesan, chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste, and some oregano because hey, you're the boss of this tomato sauce. And an entire clove of crushed garlic. Saute on medium high for 20 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens a bit. It will be very chunky, but also very delicious, so ... win win.
|In retrospect, larger tomatoes would probably have yielded a more respectable amount of sauce.|
|Our matching espresso makers. Dave is on a decaf kick, so we're a mixed household these days.|
|The view from the kitchen window. Not too shabby, at least when scary neighbor lady isn't creeping at us through the window directly across. She always recoils in horror if we catch her eye. Viva Italia.|