Friday, February 19, 2010

Pasta pick-me-up for chicken

By Helen Klein

I have always loved leftovers.

Yes, I am a fan of Chinese takeout the day after, and the day after that, and even the day after that, as well. And, at times, there’s nothing better than a slice of pizza sitting there in the fridge waiting for when you are really hungry and lazy, to boot.

But, what I really adore are home-cooked goodies that didn’t make it from platter to individual plate the night before: Containers of stir-fried or grilled veggies, and tin-foil packets of barbecued or blackened chicken breast, or silky poached shrimp, all lined up on a refrigerator shelf, just waiting to be turned into something yummy.

Not that man – or woman -- can live by leftovers alone.

If you want to take advantage of the versatility of the culinary bits and pieces you’ve accumulated, it doesn’t hurt to have a jar of olives, some roasted peppers or a can of chickpeas at hand either in a pantry whose de rigueur components include good dry pasta (I usually opt for whole grain), rice (I always have a jar of arborio rice available, as well as the standard long-grain variety) a selection of canned beans, good olive oil, a selection of vinegars and some hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.

To aid in the effort, my crisper is rarely empty. Rather, it overflows with the stuff that lunches and dinners are made of, or at least enhanced by: Fresh herbs, cucumbers, ripe avocados, tomatoes, sweet peppers – the list could go on and on.

It’s this bounty I turn to when I have hungry people waiting and I’m in a hurry.

And, the best of it is that a little can go a long way, which is a benefit in terms of time and money saved. A single chicken breast doesn’t usually become dinner for four, but in concert with a few other select ingredients, indeed it can be, as it is in this quick pasta dish, which I pulled together, one cool night, by drawing on resources right at my fingertips.

Needless to say, this dish is infinitely malleable. If my pantry and fridge had yielded different ingredients – basil and tomatoes, say, or feta cheese and artichokes -- the results would have been different, but undoubtedly equally delectable.

The fact is that, while baking is clearly a science, bound by hard and fast rules, cooking is an art, in which inspired alterations in existing recipes result in some fascinating flavor combinations.
Best of all, the art of cooking, at least in its day-to-day manifestation, requires little more than good ingredients, a considering palate, a heaping cup of confidence, a sense of fun, and the willingness to take a few risks.

After all, what’s the worst case scenario? A dish that doesn’t work, and is consigned to the unsuccessful experiments file.

But, at best, you could end up with a recipe that becomes a regular part of your kitchen repertoire, like this, undoubtedly, will be for me.

My Little Pasta Chick-A-Deux


1 blackened or grilled boneless chicken breast, cut into small strips or chunks
½ can chickpeas, drained
2 Kirby cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1-2 roasted red peppers (fresh or from a jar), diced
1 avocado, meat peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ pound rotelle or other shaped pasta, cooked till al dente


Combine chicken pieces, chickpeas, cucumber chunks, avocado chunks, parsley and cilantro in a large serving bowl. Add cooked, drained pasta and toss. Add olive oil and toss again. Flavor with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves four as a light main dish.


Copyright © 2009 All rights reserved

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP