Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nostalgic: Italian Chicken & Vegetables

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It was love at first sight. It was beyond my control and there was absolutely no fighting against the powerful emotion that took over me. I was only 16, but I already knew then that this would effect my entire life. I would never be able to let go of this passion. The sights that I encountered and the more I discovered all kept me tangled in it's sweet grasp.

It was true, I never was able to let go. Even today, just a thought is enough to take me back to those places, those feelings and those sounds. I'm also going to admit, whenever I can, I still have my love affair. It never stopped and I know it never will!

To think - my father is to blame for all this. A summer love affair with repercussions.

Living in Qatar we had extremely long summer vacations. They'd last most of the time from end of June till beginning of September and everyone who could would leave the country to get away from the blistering heat. In my family we had a kind of tradition. Each parent would take one child and spend a two week vacation in Europe and then all of us would meet up in the US for the remaining of the vacation. So, one summer I would spend two weeks with my mum touring the Loire, while my brother and dad discovered England. The following summer, my brother would be in Paris with my mother and I would tour through Italy with my dad.

It was that particular year - my dad took me to Italy for the first time. I was 16 and my dad had put together a fantastic tour. Florence, Milan, Rome, Capri and Naples, in two weeks. My experience of Italy that summer at the age of 16 would remain unforgettable. That is when my wild love affair with this lively, passionate and warm country began and has been a part of my life ever since. To some extent it has even shaped me into the person I am today.

Italy captivated me the moment I stepped off the plane. The ancient architecture interconnecting with modern Italian life, the scents that wafted through the streets from the homes and the restaurants, the incredible beauty of this artistically, culturally rich and colorful country captured my heart forever in it's eternal embrace. My mind grabbed out at all the sensations, devouring them as quickly as they came.

Our trip was filled with all those colors, sounds and aromas that capture your attention, win you over and seduce you. It is alive with wonderful passion, elegance and warmth.

We started in Rome. A unique city due to the completely opposite styles of art and life that have found a way to live side by side there: Imperial Rome and Baroque Rome, sophisticated Rome and working-class Rome. The hustle and bustle of the tourists and the serenity of a quiet piazza. Then we headed to Naples. Sunny, lively, sassy and simply intoxicating. Naples is music, theatre, Vesuvius, coffee, pizza and the sea. Next stop Capri, high society par excellence! An island that enchanted not only little me, but also the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onasis. You can feel the aura of elegance all around you in Capri. We headed to Milan - an overwhelming, frantic and restless city. A city full of contradictions, ancient and modern, trends and counter-trends, fashion and underground, middle class and working class, but always simply “cool”. Finally we arrived in Florence. Firenze - stole my heart. An open-air exhibition of art and culture. My dad and I wandered around the city, both with gleaming eyes, discovering the hidden wonders and the most charming spots in Florence. As we sat in a small restaurant towards the end of our trip, overlooking the red roofs of Florence, I said to my dad,

"I want to come back here again. Maybe when I turn 30!"

I do not know why I said 30. Probably because for me 30 was the mark in my life that I knew I would have made it in my life. Out of university, well positioned in my job and maybe with a partner.

Fourteen years later, Tom surprised me with a trip to Florence on my 30th birthday. I was 6 months pregnant with Soeren and life was exactly how I had envisaged it to be that day at the age of 16, with my dad. Although I had been to Florence a few times after that trip, coming back here at 30 was special. Because Tom fulfilled a wish I had made and sort of stashed away at the back of my head and almost forgotten.

Impressions of An Italian Holiday

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That summer I climbed all the stairs to the top of the tower of the Duomo, my huge stomach would not stop me from getting that magical glimpse of this city. Finally on top, I smiled to myself at the ecstatic feeling that took over me. A sea of red. Florence shone with all it's glory - just for me - on that June summer day, the red roofs glistening in the hot sun. Even Soeren felt the empowering feeling this city had on me and let me knew he too found this fantastic.

"60!"

"What?" asked Tom

"I'll be back here at 60!"

Tom nodded, put his arm around me and smiled a knowing smile.

Until then, I'll be cooking my favorite Italian meals that offer a bit of solace to the heart and looking at a few pictures of many Italian vacations gone by.



Reminder!


How loud can you scream for ice-cream? WHAT? I can't hear you.
If you want to be heard send in your scrumptious ice-cream creations for July's MM - Scream For Ice Cream








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Ingredients

1 free range chicken approx 1.5kg - cut along the spine
4-6 rosemary twigs
120g cherry tomatoes - halved
5-6 garlic cloves - slightly crushed and peel left on
2 small zucchini - sliced
1 large red bell pepper - sliced
10 shallots - quartered
100g mange-tout/snow peas
1 can (425 ml) big white beans - drained
150g small new potatoes - halved
1 lemon - sliced + juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil




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Method

Pre-heat oven at 200 degrees C. Line a large baking tray with aluminum foil.

Place the chicken flat on the tray, breast side facing up, and with your hands press down to flatten. Salt and pepper generously. Pull away some of the skin of the chicken and place a few slices of lemon in between the chicken meat and the skin. Remove the needles of the rosemary and spread half of them also in between the meat and the skin. Roast the chicken in the oven for approx. 1 hour.

In a large bowl mix together all the vegetables with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and the remaining rosemary. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.

After the chicken has been in the oven for 30 minutes, take out and arrange the vegetables around the chicken on the tray. Roast for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with fruity chianti and crispy ciabatta




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Verdict

This is a wonderful down-to earth meal. No fuss and no hassle. Typically for Italian meals, while meats or poultry are moderately spiced, it is the vegetables that take canter stage in the dish. So is the case in this dish too. The chicken is soft and juicy but by no means does it steal the full-bodied flavor of the vegetables fresh from the Farmer's Market. Rosemary, lemon and tomatoes give the entire dish a wonderful fruity, tangy and herby aroma. Just perfect to sit back and reminiscence of those warm, wonderful Italian holidays.







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16 comments :

  1. Looks like fairy tale Meeta. I wish you that you are there in Italy on your 60th birthday !!

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  2. You are so fortunate and blessed. I am happy for you. The dish is colourful and very summery.

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  3. What a lovely little story :-) Annd I hope you'll be blogging it after you vist at 60 as well!

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  4. Such a lovely memory! I remember my first visit to Italy -- it was magical. We went to Rome, Florence and Venice. I remember the light, the art, and the sounds -- but nothing about the food on that first trip. Since then, of course, the food of Italy has been a focus of every visit.

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  5. Wonderful reminiscing Meeta. There's something about Italy and Italian food that most people would find hard not to be totally captivated by.
    Amanda

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  6. Hi Meeta- this looks so incredibly flavorful AND healthy at the same time...

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  7. Awww that was so brilliantly narrated !! I will cook this dish omitting the chicken just because I am smitten by your narration :)

    Cheers,
    Mythili

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  8. Very sweet! And what a terrific way to travel, individually, with each parent, then everyone coming together!

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  9. great post!!!!
    The photos are great Meeta
    Very well written too.

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  10. What wonderful parents. I wish I'd thought to do that when my children were growing up. But we do have wonderful memories of family holidays. I'm sure you will be back there for your 60th.

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  11. Dear Meeta, what a nostalgic feeling you brought inside me too! I love your pictures of Italy, and I was really really happy to find out about your love for my own country. :)

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  12. A wonderful and evocative post, Meeta! You are making me long for Italy and I have yet to visit (although hopefully later this year!)!

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  13. What a wonderful story and beautiful food to go with the memories.

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  14. What a great story Meeta! What a great way for you to bond with your parents! Very Lovely!

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  15. Oh folks I am really glad you liked the story. These kind of stories are special to my heart so when I share them with out I especially look forward to your thoughts and opinion. Thank you so much!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta