white buttercake

John said, is this cake made with white butter? I said no, it’s a white buttercake, as in This is not a yellow buttercake. But in this light, it sure looks yellow, doesn’t it? From the first mouthful, this cake was heavenly. It’s so moist, tender, and has that wonderful smell of vanilla. So get a good vanilla, like a Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract.

This cake is good enough to eat without frosting. It’s also versatile enough to be the tiers in a wedding cake covered with an elegant fondant or a decadent buttercream. If it is going to be decorated, it should be made three days before serving. If wrapped well and refrigerated, it will stay fresh. To add moisture and flavor, you can brush the layers with a simple syrup. To make a simple syrup, boil a cup of sugar with a cup of water. I’m not sure if the cake recipe can be doubled for a tier wedding cake. I should think it could. As promised, here is Martha Stewart’s excellent recipe.

Yield Makes 6 cups batter

Martha Stewart’s White Buttercake

Ingredients

  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 3 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature

 Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the cake pans with butter (see below for pan sizes and batter amounts). Line with parchment paper; butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir the milk and vanilla to combine; set aside. Beat the butter in a mixer bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream; mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  1. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, and beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined.

Cook’s Tip: I know that’s confusing. Think of it this way: flour-milk-flour-milk-flour.

  1. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites just until stiff peaks form.  Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites in two batches. Divide the batter among the prepared pans; smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Firmly tap the pans on a work surface to release any air bubbles.

Cook’s Tip: Instead of under-mixing the egg whites, I had a problem with over-mixing. I would say, stop whipping the egg whites when the whites start to look glossy and the tips bend over when the beaters are slowly raised.

  1. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch (see below for baking times). Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks. Remove the parchment; re-invert and cool completely.

Cook’s Note: I used an 8 inch springform pan. The sides were too high so the cake fell a bit in the middle. It took 50 minutes at 300˚F to bake. I reduced the temperature 50˚ because the pan was so deep.

Cook’s Note from Martha Stewart:

Approximate batter amounts and baking times for 3-inch-deep round pans: 6-inch layer: 3 cups batter, 30 minutes; 8-inch: 5 cups, 40 minutes; 10-inch: 8 cups, 1 hour 5 minutes; 12-inch: 11 cups, 1 hour 15 minutes.

week 3 of fondant and royal icing

It’s the halfway point of the course. The fact that a major snowstorm hit the city yesterday didn’t help dispel that feeling of dread, “what am I doing here?” The assignment: to make a white cake and cover it in a crumb coating. My cake’s texture was dense. No doubt because the egg whites didn’t get foamy enough before I added the sugar. <sigh>

We also made our own royal icing and Italian Meringue Buttercream. Now, those were more successful. The buttercream was a delicate balance between meringue and sugar syrup arriving at the same point ready to be joined together. Sounds like a marriage! In fact, after two pounds of  butter had been added it still looked like the consistency of cream soup. (This stuff isn’t heart healthy, that’s for sure.)

Chef Tai said to just put the buttercream in the bowl in the fridge for a while. But Chef Joseph showed me a really neat trick instead. He put the bowl back on the mixer stand. Instead of raising the bowl, he let the whip just touch an inch beneath the surface. Then he switched on the machine and let it go round until the mixture began to look vaguely like cottage cheese. Then he raised the bowl to immerse the whip and continued whipping until a smooth buttercream emerged. A miraculous save!

We were dismissed an hour early on account of the weather. It was still sleeting. I brought back the royal icing and the buttercream to practice making borders at home. I reviewed the white cake recipe afterwards to see where I went wrong. I noticed that the vanilla was missing and the sugar amounts in the ingredients were different from the procedure. Aw nuts. Chef Tai had said it was Martha Stewart’s White Buttercake recipe so I looked it up online and got the correct measurements. That’s my next recipe post!

skinny cornbread

This recipe for low fat cornbread is adapted from an about.com recipe. It is moist and has a tender crumb thanks to the yogurt and the clabbered milk. Clabbered milk? Well, that’s what you call it when you add vinegar or lemon juice to milk to curdle it.  This cornbread is delicious with white chicken chili.

Cook Time: 25 minutes

 Ingredients:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup clabbered nonfat milk
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
To clabber milk, put 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a glass one-cup measure. Top up with non-fat milk and let rest for about 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, clabbered milk, yogurt, and oil. Add wet mixture to dry and stir until just moistened. Do not overmix.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Shift the pan back and forth on the countertop to displace any air bubbles. Bake until lightly golden and until the top springs back slightly when pressed—about 25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then serve while still warm.

Makes 16 squares.

Variation
The original recipe said to use 1 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk. But as buttermilk is difficult to find and keep on hand just on the off chance you are going to make biscuits or cornbread, I substituted clabbered milk and yogurt for the buttermilk.

the white queen of chili

I shouldn’t write when I’m tired! I was rushing to get the last post out because I didn’t want to forget what happened at last Saturday’s class. Not my best writing!

Normally I don’t try new recipes in mid-week but I needed to do something different. Sometimes you just have to mix it up!  It’s also an America’s Test Kitchen recipe so I can trust it to work. Because there are many ingredients and there is much cutting and chopping, I recommend prepping all ingredients before cooking. At the French Culinary Institute they call this mis en place literally “put in place.” Somehow I skipped over the garlic (imagine that! And me a garlic lover!) and had to pause the process to chop up some garlic. This recipe took about 1 1/2 hours from prepping to finish–the chicken breast version, mind you.

This white chicken chili  is a tasty recipe but I warn you, it’s hot! You can tone it down by eliminating the seeds and veins of the chilies. Oh, and if you can’t find Anaheim chilies (I couldn’t) then add an extra jalapeño and poblano chili to the ingredients, or be brave and add 3 Thai chili peppers, as I did! I served it with roasted vegetables and low-fat cornbread from a recipe on about.com .

White Chicken Chili

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 – 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves , trimmed of excess fat and skin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced
3 poblano chilies (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chili peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces (I substituted 3 whole Thai chili peppers)
2 medium onions , cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, in food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. (I had very lean chicken breasts so there was only a tablespoon of liquid in the pan.) Add 1/2 the minced jalapeños, chili-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, Thai chili peppers if using, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. When cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes), shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Taste. In my first mouthful I detected the full flavor of the chilies, the fresh taste of cilantro and the tartness of lime juice, so, no,  it didn’t need salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, if you like.  Serve. I roasted vegetables so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat more than two pieces of cornbread, which keeps the carb intake low!

In another post will be the recipe for low-fat cornbread.

more fondant and royal icing

More about fondants today with a new teacher, Chef Tai. What I learned is that every cook has a different way of doing fondants. Instead of two whole boxes of sugar, Chef Thai said start with one and a half boxes. Then when the fondant is mixing up, add more as needed until it becomes solid in appearance. What Chef Tai does next is smear Crisco all vegetable shortening on her hands and on the work surface which she blots with cornstarch or sprinkles sparingly. Then I kneaded the fondant on the prepared work surface, adding more sugar as needed, until it was “soft and malleable.” I wrapped the fondant in plastic and let it rest.  Chef Tai recommended at least 10 minutes. We continued the lesson with store-bought fondant which we colored with gel food coloring, about 1-2 drops per pound. It’s best to be conservative.


I rolled out the fondant and turned it to keep it fairly circular until it was about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Instead of rolling it up on a rolling pin to transport to the cake (actually a cake dummy) Chef Tai recommended dusting the backs of our forearms with cornstarch and transporting it that way to the cake. I trimmed off the overhanging fondant. Then gently pulling and smoothing and separating, I covered the edges. I cut away the excess fondant with a pastry wheel, leaving a 1/4 inch edge that could be smoothed and trimmed. Then we moved on to using fondant and royal icing to decorate.

I’ve still got some things to work out. The band is too thick because the fondant was too dry. Some of the things you add to fondant to make it “malleable” like glycerin and CMC (Sodium Carboxy Methyl Cellulose)  sound so terrible, not to mention, unappetizing. I think that elaborately decorating a cake can make one forget that it’s the Ultimate Food, that it’s meant to be tasted and savored, not just have visual appeal.

the icing on the cake

I signed up for an “amateur class” in Fondant and Royal Icing yesterday afternoon at the French Culinary Institute. I’ve always wanted to take a cake decorating course and now I have started one that meets for five Saturdays. Chef Christopher and Chef Isra were our teachers for about 20 women. Class started at 3:30 and ended at 8:30 p.m. and we were on our feet the whole time. I have an entirely new respect for chefs now; you need a good pair of shoes and long underwear. It was cold in the pastry kitchen! Who says if you can’t stand the fire get out of the kitchen? It’s October but the a/c was on full blast! Now a uniform did make me look and feel professional (terrified) and most intimidating of all, every single one of us “amateurs” got our very own roll of tools. Now my first attempt at fondant was an utter failure; the gelatin mixture got cold from the frigid air from the a/c and it clumped when it should have turned into a taffy-like consistency. I learned two things: all ingredients are weighed and following a fondant recipe is a lot harder than it looks.

Here is the basic textbook recipe for enough rolled fondant to cover two six-inch cakes:

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
60ml cold water
170g light corn syrup or glucose
1 1/2 tablespoons glycerin
900 grams powdered sugar, sifted

  1. Put the gelatin in a bowl and cover it with the cold water.
  2. Allow the gelatin to soak for several minutes.
  3. Heat the gelatin in a bain-marie until clear and completely dissolved.
  4. Stir in the corn syrup and glycerin.
  5. Make a well in the center of the powdered sugar.
  6. Pour the gelatin mixture into the well.
  7. Stir the mixture together until it forms a mass.
  8. Knead the fondant until it is smooth and malleable.
  9. Wrap the fondant in plastic wrap and set it aside until needed.

Now here is my version of the recipe with notes (what you learn from watching, making mistakes, and doing it again!) Thanks to Chef Isra, I now have a better understanding of the fondant. She insisted I dip my finger in the gelatin mixture to feel the temperature.

Ingredients (to cover two six-inch cakes)

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
60ml cold water
170g light corn syrup or glucose
1 1/2 tablespoons glycerin
900g powdered 10x sugar, sifted (2x453g boxes) plus extra for kneading
Cornstarch for kneading

Procedure

  1. Pour the sugar in the bowl of a mixer.
  2. Put  a saucepan half-filled with water on to boil. Put the 60ml cold water in a metal bowl and sprinkle the gelatin all over top. Swirl the gelatin back and forth to “bloom.”
  3. Heat the gelatin over the hot pan of water until dissolved and no lumps remain. Stir gently with a whisk in a back and forth motion.
  4. Add the corn syrup and glycerin to the gelatin and stir until the mixture is well combined. Do not overcook. The temperature of the gelatin mixture should be just hot, comfortably hot, not scalding.
  5. Make a well in the center of the sugar and pour the gelatin mixture into it. Let it sit for 2 minutes.
  6. Blend the sugar and gelatin mixture on low speed in the mixer until all the dry ingredients are moistened. It will be sticky and thick but not runny or dry.
  7. Use a bowl scraper to get the fondant off the beaters. Spread a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch on the work surface. Using the bowl scraper, scrape all the fondant onto the prepared work surface. Knead the fondant until it is smooth and malleable. It is better for it to be underdone and slightly sticky rather than dry.
  8. Wrap the fondant in plastic wrap and set aside until needed. If you are not going to use the fondant right away, wrap a damp towel around the plastic wrap, and then wrap it again with plastic. Refrigerate.
  9. Prepare the cake for the fondant. Put the cake to be covered in fondant on the work surface. Then sprinkle a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch on the work surface. Roll the fondant out evenly so that it is at least twice the diameter of the cake. If bubbles form in the fondant surface, gently prick them with the tip of a paring knife. Gently roll up the fondant on the rolling pin.
  10. Unroll the fondant on the cake so that it falls evenly over the top and sides. Don’t worry if you have to pick it up and adjust the position. Using two smoothers, gently smooth out the top and the sides. Gradually smooth out the bottom as you go by unfolding the folds of fondant and gently pressing it to the side of the cake. As you get to the bottom, cut the excess fondant away about two inches from the bottom edge of the cake. Continue unfolding and pressing the edges of the fondant to the bottom of the cake. Then, using a paring knife, carefully trim away the excess as close to the bottom edge of the cake as you can. Save the fondant scraps for decorations.

Chef Christopher told us lots of stories about cooking lore and gave us advice about getting started as a cake baker.  I’m not sure I want to go that route but about half the class put up their hands when asked, how many of you want to be professional bakers?  The Chef gave a quick lesson on the economics of cake baking; the starting price for a wedding cake is $10.00 per slice.  He told us about the four different types of buttercream frostings (Italian Meringue, Pâte à Bombe, Swiss Meringue, and Mousseline) and then he made a delicious batch of Pistachio Swiss Meringue to sample. Oh, heavens. It’s to die for.

Cooking school, I am learning, is all about community and eating nutritious food. About halfway through the class, we stopped for a quick snack of homemade raisin-walnut bread and cheese and pear. We were invited to partake of Family Meal after class. Family Meal is prepared by the students in the classic culinary arts curriculum to give them hands-on experience in cooking in quantity.  But I was tired, my feet were aching. I didn’t go. Maybe next week.

My fondant friend Peaches Snowball Caraway


pepperoni pan pizza

This week the Foodie Joanie blog achieved a milestone, sort of. Two people signed up to receive e-mail notices of new blog postings. One is someone from the blogosphere, the other is Andy. I know he shouldn’t count. However he has the distinction of being an early connoisseur (and survivor) of my cooking ever since I baked him a chocolate cake from a mix for his birthday when we were in college.

This was a big week, cooking-wise, since Sandra came to show me how cooking is done in an Italian kitchen. I know now that pizza isn’t genuine Italian food but it’s such a big part of American food lore that America’s Test Kitchen decided to improve upon it. But with a Whole Foods a few blocks away that makes and sells ready-made pizza dough, it’s not hard to find a shortcut and a timesaver.

Pizza Crust
1 bag of refrigerated dough (I bought white pizza dough)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 (9″x2″) round cake pans

Let the dough come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200˚F then switch off the heat. Prepare the two cake pans. Put 3 tablespoons oil in each pan and set aside. Cut open the dough package and put the dough on a lightly floured board. Knead a couple of times and shape into a ball. Grease a large glass bowl with cooking spray, put the dough ball in it and turn it until it is coated with oil all over. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to double in size, about 1/2 an hour. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Marinara Sauce for topping
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a cold saucepan, add the oil and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Pizza toppings
1 roll pepperoni sausage cut into thin rounds
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, bundled and rolled into a cigar shape and sliced thinly crosswise
Red pepper flakes for serving, optional

Put the pepperoni rounds between sheets of paper towels on a plate. Microwave for 30 seconds to draw out the oil. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 400˚F. Gently swirl the oil around the bottom of the cake pan, being careful not to get any oil on the sides. Set aside. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured board and cut the dough ball in half. Roll each half into a 7-inch circle. Drape one of the circles over the backs of your knuckles and gently stretch out the dough circle to 9 1/2 inches. The center should be thin, the edges thicker. Gently pat into a prepared pan. Don’t get any oil on the top of the crust. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside as you do the second crust.

Remove the plastic wrap. Spoon one ladleful of sauce in the center of each dough circle and spread it towards the edges, leaving a 1/2 inch border. You may need to add a little bit more of the sauce to cover the dough. I forgot to mention that you will have leftover tomato sauce. Just refrigerate the leftovers if you plan on using it up in the next three days. If not, freeze the leftovers.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the grated mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce. Spread the pepperoni on top of the cheese. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let the pizza rest for 1 minute.  Sprinkle the top with fresh basil. Slice and serve with red pepper flakes, if you like. Yum!

the Hot Italian

It sounds like a come-on, doesn’t it? But I’m talking about spicy Italian cooking here! Now, I’ve done things like spaghetti,  lasagna, and pizza. Sandra, the Feisty Italian chef told me some things about Italian food that I didn’t know. First, pizza isn’t real Italian food. That’s like chow mein isn’t real Chinese food either. The second thing Sandra explained was that Italians only eat lasagna on feast days. I was too ashamed to mention what a horrible thing the Thai have done to spaghetti sauce (ketchup is the main ingredient. Shudder.).

I went grocery shopping for ingredients mainly at Trader Joe’s on Broadway. On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up ciabatta bread, basil, eggplant, peppers, tomato paste, romaine lettuce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and rigatoni all for just $19.02. At Fairway I got a jar of hot cherry peppers, two 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes, a zucchini, and dried parsley. I decided to treat us to sparkling apple cider so that came to $14.96. I bought four chicken breasts with the bone-in and skin-on @$1.99 per pound and a small bottle of apple cider vinegar for $1.00. The cost of the meal came up to just over $40.00.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook from an Italian so I bought this coupon from AmazonLocal for a three course Italian meal for up to four people cooked right in our apartment for $99.00.  AJ invited his friend Robin. Then The Feisty Italian cook Sandra Catena came on Thursday afternoon to the Teeny Tiny Apartment. Sandra proceeded to show us how to make a delicious home-style Italian meal in two hours. I learned the difference between EVOO and OO. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the most expensive and is very light and delicate, best suited for salads. Olive Oil is better for cooking. So here it is.

The Hot Italian: A Three Course Italian Meal (by Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian)

Romaine Lettuce Salad with Vinegar and Oil
1 pound romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 loaf Italian bread (e.g. ciabatta)

Rigatoni Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Vegetables
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup mozzarella cheese, coarsely chopped
Salt
Olive Oil
2 quarts water
Olive oil

Marinara Sauce
1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
8 whole fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (1 teaspoon dried)
1 sprig fresh oregano (1/4 teaspoon dried oregano)
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes (peperoncino)
Olive oil

Chicken with Hot Cherry Peppers
4 chicken breasts (skin on, bone in)
1/4 cup salt
4 cups water
1 (16 oz) jar hot cherry peppers

  1. Brine chicken breasts in cold water to cover and 1/4 cup salt for 2 hours before cooking.
  2. Peel off the leafy top of the eggplant and cut off both ends. Make 3 horizontal cuts in the eggplant from the bulbous end at the bottom. Make 3 vertical cuts in the eggplant. Slice into thin strips. Cut off the top and bottom of the zucchini. Split it in half lengthwise. Split each length down the middle. Thinly slice each length crosswise. Put in a large bowl and set aside. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Add to the bowl and set aside.
  3. Mince the onion and the garlic.
  4. In a large pot, put the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook on high heat until it is bubbling. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes or until thickened.
  5. In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes to develop the flavors.  Add the cut-up vegetables. Toss and stir until thoroughly cooked through, about 20 minutes. Spoon the vegetables and liquid into the tomato sauce. Add the parsley and and oregano. Do not wash out the skillet.  Let the marinara sauce with vegetables cook an additional 20 minutes or until thickened. Turn off the heat.  Add the whole basil leaves and stir.
  6. To the (unwashed) skillet add the chicken and peppers with liquid. Cover and cook over medium heat, turning chicken occasionally, until cooked, about 35-40 minutes. Remove the skin and discard. Cook’s Tip: I would reduce the cooking time for the chicken to 25-30 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken.
  7. Cook one pound of rigatoni in a large pot of water seasoned with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt. Cook as directed on the package. Drain. Put about a cupful of pasta in a medium bowl. Spoon marinara sauce over and toss in a few chunks of the mozzarella cheese.
  8. Coarsely chop the lettuce. Add the vinegar and olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with slices of ciabatta bread.

To serve, start with the salad and the bread. Then proceed to the pasta. Fill a bowl with a cup of rigatoni, a ladleful of marinara sauce with vegetables, and a tablespoon of mozzarella cheese.  Serve the chicken last. The salad was crisp and tart. The pasta was superb; al dente and the sauce, mm-m! It was infused with fresh vegetable flavor–rather like a ratatouille. Oh darn. I forgot to take a picture of the chicken when it was cooked. I was so hungry, I was halfway through the pasta when I remembered to take a picture of it. After the pasta I was too full to eat more than a mouthful of chicken. Today, AJ ate all the leftover chicken so I have no pictures of it at all!