Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Some Gave All ... Italian Broccoli and Pepper Jack Chicken Stacks

Monday - Today is Memorial Day.  What can I say that hasn't been said? God bless America, and every service person who gave their lives so that we could continue to live free.

Chelsea having a lavender-scented doggie soak

Sunday was all about shopping for a dish which did not get made, at least not yesterday - and Hoppin' John (what is a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn doing cooking Hoppin' John?) - and taking care of my little princess, Chelsea Rose, in our never-ending quest to get her some relief from those horrible fleas, and that involved additional shaving and trimming and soaking and bathing and combing, and she's so tiny it hurts to see her go through it.

It's also about watching the Eastern Conference Finals; Cleveland ahead of Atlanta by 2 games, and let's go Cleveland.  Sue me, I like Lebron.

Basil, sweet mint, Gtreek oregano; thyme, Thai basil, sage; Italian oregano, rosemary

And it was about checking on my newly-planted herbs and planning on where was the best place to plant the okra, cucumber, zucchini, Roma tomato, and Japanese eggplant.  This is a brand-new experience for me, and I'm having fun, thanks to my husband, who listened to me talk about an urban garden and ran with it.

Monday is about learning to work with the polenta, and that's where I am now, having overslept dramatically because of the medication I took at 4 AM to give me some relief from a bout of insane itching that almost had me in tears.  This polenta comes all prepared, in a tube, neatly sliceable.  I did some research online and found that this was a product well-thought of by many home cooks, easy to prepare - slice and sauté.

I never had polenta or grits until I moved south.  I'm still not thrilled with grits, but I've had some creamy polenta preparations that were pretty awesome. This solidified polenta is a whole new experience.

But before I even get there - I am having a sad day.  Can't get passed the sadness.  Can't eat, can't swallow liquids easily.  Just a crap day.  And tomorrow I have - wait for it - another lab test.  Nothing to eat after midnight. Well, that shouldn't be a problem for me. And then there's my weekly chat with the therapist.

So to go with the pretty Italian style stacks I just invented, I am making some Italian broccoli.  Mostly my grandmother's recipe.

Italian Broccoli

2-3 tablespoons olive oil (garlic, if you have some)
1 -10 oz. frozen block broccoli spears
lemon zest, to taste
2-4 cloves fresh garlic chopped
fresh Greek oregano, to taste, chopped

Put the ingredients in a small pan in the order given.  Turn the heat on high.  Once you can hear the oil sizzling, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Check it occasionally and rearrange the broccoli stalks.  Don't do what I did, which is to forget about the broccoli while I was building those stacks.  Broccoli is now overdone but delicious.  However, if you are the kind of person who eats with your eyes first, you will probably pass right by the broccoli - your loss, more for me. <insert smilie face>

Now about those stacks - easy, but time consuming.  They do make a very pretty presentation, but I must warn you, each of these is a big portion.  That pepper jack cheese was spicier than I anticipated, and while Rob loved it, there is no shame in making some of them with regular mozzarella or provolone.

Pepper Jack Chicken Stacks

1-45 oz. jar prepared sauce (I used Ragu chunky vegetable)
10 frozen chicken patties (I used Tyson, but Perdue is also good)
10 frozen eggplant cutlets (I use Michaelangelo brand)
1-16 oz. roll prepared polenta, basil and oregano flavored, cut into 10 slices
Wondra flour
canola oil for cooking

Dust the polenta slices with Wondra flour. In a skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons oil then cook the polenta on each side until golden brown. Set aside. Add a little more oil, and cook the eggplant slices as directed on the package.  Set aside. While cooking the polenta and eggplant, cook the chicken patties in the oven according to package directions.

Combine the ricotta mixture:

1-15 oz. container whole milk ricotta
1 egg yolk
kosher salt and ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Construct the stacks:

sauce just to cover bottom of 2 pans
chicken pattie
sauce (be generous)
pepper jack sliced cheese

Now add some water to whatever sauce is left in the bottle and shake well.  Carefully pour the diluted sauce around the stacks to keep the bottom of the pan moist.  Probably best to do this just before you put on the pepper jack cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes intil the cheese is melted over the stack.

Next time, I may leave out the polenta layer.  It was good; my tasters just aren't sure it added anything to the dish since there was already so much going on.

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