What Do You Get When You Cook With a Portuguese Girl Who Loves Italian Food? Chicken Cacciatore with Sweet White Yams!

chicken cacciatore

While Jason and a friend watched movies on Netflix and my sixteen-year-old busied herself in her usual way, texting and taking photos, I sought my own solitude by cooking Chicken Cacciatore in the kitchen.

This dish was absolutely one of our favorites in 2014.  My only regret is that I didn’t make it more.  But hey, better late than never.  I love the colors of fresh green herbs and red bell pepper glistening in the Greek extra virgin olive oil, and their aroma, along with the garlic and Greek Oregano filled the air.  (Jason’s brother-in-law from Greece brought us the oregano and oil.  It is to die for)!

I prepared the Cacciatore in my Le Creuset French Oven – slow cooking it of course; set it on top of the stove and when it was done, family and friends were invited to serve themselves. The chicken was so tender and juicy; no knife was needed.

Ingredients:

6 boneless chicken  breasts, halved crosswise
2 large white yams, halved crosswise then quartered
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celary stock (optional)
8 baby carrots, halved (optional)
3/4 cup dry white wine (or 50/50 water to apple cider vinegar)
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (I had to substitue flat-leaf parsley this time)
1 sprig of thyme

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. I do this by using a large vegatable plastic bag from the grocery store. Just add the chicken, salt, pepper and flour and shake!

In a large heavy sauté pan, (again I used the 9 1/2 Ct Le Creuset Oval French Oven) heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic and white yams to the same pan and sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, include any juice resting in the plate, and turn them to coat in the sauce. Add the sprig of thyme.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Stop.   Wait!  Here is where I change it up.  Because I started cooking in the morning, rather than simmer for 30 minutes as the directions say to do, I turned the oven to 250 degrees and let the stew cook for approximately two hours.

Now, if you need this dish to be ready in 30-40 minutes, just pretend I didn’t say the above and follow accordingly:

Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.

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Basil Pesto: So Simple & Savory For Summer Dishes

Basil Pesto by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Basil Pesto by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Ingredients

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (I triple wash them first then dry)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (I often use walnuts or a combination of nuts)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Directions

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add a little more than 1/3 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Great over pasta dishes, tomatoes, fish, beef, sandwiches, salads and crostinis.

Basil Pesto Preserve by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Basil Pesto Preserve by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole: A Satisfying and Fun Last Minute Dish

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole, Photo by Jason Homa

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole, Photo by Jason Homa

Monday nights a lot of friends go to a NYC Mexican restaurant for “Fajita Night,” but this is not the Mexican food I grew up on in California. Fajitas came later and were more common in the Texas region that was once Mexico (ode to Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo).  I was raised on handmade tortillas, (my friend Amy Sierra’s mom used to make them) with chorizo and eggs, chile relleno, refried beans, tacos, salsa picante and enchiladas.  This is what I considered “real Mexican food.”  Everyone is entitled to their taste.

One of my favorite (and real simple to make) snacks was nachos.  I thought about them last night on our way home and stopped and grabbed a couple of avocados, vine tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, lime and a variety of corn and sweet potato chips and here is what I came up with.

Again, before I let Jason go at them, he took this beautiful photograph.  It was one of our quicker shoots, since, by the time we ate, we were starving. This recipe is for my brothers, my mom and dad and all my friends in Cali!!!  Good eats, good times and good memories!

Oh, and if you’re in the Bay Area of northern California, here were some of my favorite spots:

La Pinata

Tito’s Mexican Restaurant

La Taqueria

Beefy Enchiladas with Guacamole

Preheat Oven to 325

1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Tbsp. Flour or Cornstarch
1/2 Lb. Sharp Cheddar Grated
1/2 Lb. Monterey Jack with Peppers Grated
1 Yellow Onion Minced
3 Cloves of Garlic chopped
1/8 Tsp. Hot Hungarian Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Smoked Spanish Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Cumin
1/8 Tsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Small Jalapeno or Serrano Chile (more if you like to sweat a little)
Salt & Pepper

Guacamole
1 Large Haas Avacado
1 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Small Jalapeno or Serrano Chile
1/2 Juice of Lime
Dash of Cumin
1/4 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 to 1 1/2 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Chopped and Seeded Vine Tomato
Salt & Pepper

Final Topping
1 and 1/2 Medium Vine Tomatoes Chopped
1 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro

Be creative:  Add your favorites at this point.  I have to be careful with how spicy I make it for some guests and others love it when I load on more chile peppers.

In a skillet coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Saute onions and garlic until caramelized. Brown meat in a separate oiled skillet (I coat the meat with a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch).  Once browned, add to caramelized onion mixture and adding jalapeno, paprikas, cumin, and oregano, mixing well.  Add beef broth, while stirring, add the cilantro and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low while preparing guacamole and chips.

For the guacamole I simply cut my ingredients into quarters and throw into my food processor until the texture is to my liking.  (I prefer a slightly chunky guac).

Assemble chips of your choice in a pyrex baking pan, layer with grated cheeses, repeat and pop in oven for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted through. Using a slotted spoon, top with beef mixture and put the nachos back in the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes (watch closely).  Take out and top with guacamole and tomatoes.  Serve immediately while catching up on Game of Thrones or The Good Wife!

Enjoy!