Italia: You Have to Try this Meal!

Yesterday, when I told my husband I was going to start cooking Italian recipes, he got this pleading look on his face and said, “Could we please stay there more than a week? I love Italian food!”  So how could I resist?   Besides, I had already decided to do Italian for a month.

Tonight, I made one of my old favorites paired with a new favorite.  The first  is a recipe from the Basilicata region of Italy — a rural, isolated area in the south — and is a very simple, peasant style roast chicken with peppers.  The contrasting colors of the peppers make this a beautiful dish, and I must say that the chicken was so good roasted this way that I ate the chicken skin for the first time in years because I couldn’t help myself. (Don’t want to see my cholesterol numbers this week . . . )

The other is a spinach dish from Rome with pine nuts and raisins that I adore — I could eat it all day.  It goes very well with the chicken dish, and I had some leftover Spanish potato tortilla that my husband made this weekend, which I served as accompaniment.   A very satisfying dinner, if I do say so myself.

Pollo con Peperoni Chicken with Peppers

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • One 4-5 lb. free-range chicken
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1  yellow bell pepper

1) In a small bowl, toss the chopped garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together.  Coat the chicken inside and out with this mixture and set aside in refrigerator for 1 hour.

2) Preheat the oven to 350  degrees F.  Roast the chicken until golden brown and the leg joints are pliable, about 70 minutes.

2a) An alternative way to do this, which will roast the chicken beautifully, (this is straight from Julia Child, so listen up!)  is to start with a 425 degrees oven and place the chicken breast side up.  Then baste chicken every 10 minutes or so with the meat juices at bottom of the pan (add water to the bottom of the roasting pan to keep it from smoking too much)  and turn chicken from side to side as you go so that the skin turns golden evenly.  After the first 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees F.  and continue to baste  every 10 minutes  until the chicken leg joints move easily. [Remember not to take too long basting, so that you don’t let all the heat out of the oven every time you do it. ] Transfer to a serving platter.

3) Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat and cook the crushed garlic until it’s brown (about 1 minute) and then discard. Lower heat to medium and cook the peppers, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes.  Then cover the cooked chicken with peppers and serve.

The above recipe is from Clifford A. Wright’s Mediterranean Feast, except for part 2a which is adapted from Julia Child’s How to Cook.

Spinaci a la Romana Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

  • 2 lbs. fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced (not diced)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup raisins, soaked in lukewarm water for 15 minutes and drained.
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

1)  Wash the spinach, then cook in a large, heavy pan with only the water that is clinging to the leaves, until just tender.  Drain well and squeeze out any excess water.

2) Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pan.  Add the garlic slices and fry gently until browned, then discard.

3) Add the pine nuts and drained raisins and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then add salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is from The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking, editor Jeni Wright and Consultant Giovanni Parmigiani with several other authors.

About tamisrenteria

Tamis Renteria, author and anthropologist, writes novels and short stories about people struggling with different religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions. She lives with her husband and youngest son in Tucson, Arizona where she types on a Mac, cooks ethnic food, and gardens among the sahuaros.
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