Friday, January 21, 2011

This meal is simply stew-pendous

By Helen Klein

I have a few basic rules for weekday night food.

The first is that it should taste good (well, this goes for any night of the week). I also favor food that’s easy to prepare, would yield leftovers for at least another night, or can be easily reinvented for another meal, is nutritious and has a sensible number of calories.

That may sound like a hefty list of requirements, but it is fairly easy to achieve. Just take this chicken and chickpea stew. All you have to do is slice some vegetables, chop a couple of cloves of garlic, chunk the chicken, do a quick sauté, then open a couple of cans, tip some vermouth into the pot, and braise everything over low heat.

Thanks to the addition of saffron, garlic, oregano and basil, the finished dish is both fragrant and savory, and, because of the white vermouth, the meat is tender and infused with the flavors of the Mediterranean. The calorie count is kept under control by the judicious use of olive oil — trust me, only a couple of tablespoons is sufficient to sauté the vegetables and the chicken.

Mediterranean Chicken Stew
Serves four


2 tbl. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast cutlets, skin removed, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, preferably sweet (Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla), thinly sliced
1 red or orange pepper, cored and sliced into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tsp. Spanish saffron
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup white (dry) vermouth
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Heat oil in large sauté pan. When oil is hot, add chicken, and sauté, turning as pieces are cooked on one side, till chicken is lightly browned on all sides.

Add onion and pepper slices to pan and continue to sauté, salting  and adding a splash of water, if necessary, to prevent vegetables and chicken from burning.

When onion has begun to turn golden and translucent, add garlic and continue sautéing another minute or two.

Add tomatoes and juices, saffron, oregano, vermouth and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Braise for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if the pan seems too dry.

Taste, and continue cooking another five or 10 minutes if necessary. Add basil, salt and pepper, and cook another five minutes.

Serve on a bed of egg noodles.


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