Friday, July 17, 2009

Reporter's Table: Bring the Mediterranean home

By Helen Klein

The colors and flavors of the Mediterranean come alive in dishes that showcase the region’s bounty, but that can be made easily in a Brooklyn kitchen.

Frankly, it’s hard to go wrong with a dish that’s redolent with onions and garlic, studded with gem-like strips of colored pepper and slices of mushroom, and flavored with such aromatic herbs as oregano and thyme whose fragrance and flavor evoke the steep, rocky hillsides of Provençe.

This entrée, like many I prepare, evolved based on the contents of my crisper and my pantry. If I’d had zucchini, I would have sliced it and tossed it in. No mushrooms? No problem. Substitute a different vegetable or eliminate it. If you add eggplant, you might want to salt the slices or strips and let them sit for about 10 minutes to render their juices, then rinse before adding to the sauté pan.

You can take the same free-wheeling approach with the herbs, to alter the flavor. Use a teaspoon of Herbes de Provençe if you have some, or some fresh rosemary, which will add its piney savor to the dish as it braises, or licoricy tarragon, which should be tossed in, fresh, at the end, to preserve its delicate taste.

At least half the fun of cooking, in my view, is such experimentation.

Whatever herbs or vegetables you toss in, this is a fine dish to serve with creamy freshly mashed potatoes or al dente pasta dressed with olive oil that has been heated with slices of garlic and a dried hot pepper (peperoncino). Remove the seeds from the pepper if you want only mild heat; leave them in if you enjoy a bit more fire in the finished dish.

Mediterranean Chicken


1 pound chicken cutlets, no more than ½ inch thick
Olive oil, as necessary, for sautéing
1 onion, sliced
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, cored and sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
8-10 oz. white mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Salt and pepper chicken on both sides. Heat enough olive oil just to coat the bottom of a large sauté pan. When oil is hot, add chicken. Sauté on one side, over moderately high heat, till golden, three to five minutes. Flip chicken and sauté on second side till golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add oil to pan if necessary. When hot, sauté onion over moderately high heat till golden, but not burned, stirring frequently. As onion nears completion, add strips of pepper and continue sautéing. Add slices of garlic, and continue to sauté. When peppers are crisp tender and onion is translucent, add mushroom slices and continue to cook. The mushrooms will render a great deal of liquid as they cook, which is why they should be added last. Once they have lost their whiteness, and shrunk, return chicken to pan, and add wine and herbs. Reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, till liquid is reduced and chicken is fork tender and flavorful. Add salt and pepper if necessary before serving.


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