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Need a winter break? Try some ‘spring chicken’

By Lisa Abraham
Akron Beacon Journal
FOOD SPRING-CHICKEN AK
PHIL MASTURZO - MCT
Even though it's still winter in most parts of the country, farmers' markets are still going and can yield a fresh dinner such as chicken with pappardelle and creamy spinach sauce.

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  • Sauteed Chicken Breast With Pappardelle and Creamy Spinach

    1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)

    1 medium yellow onion, chopped

    3 cloves garlic, minced, divided

    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    3 cups reduced-fat (not nonfat) milk, room temperature

    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Dash of nutmeg, or to taste

    1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped

    2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

    Olive oil, for sauteing

    Salt and pepper, to taste

    4 ounces fresh pappardelle pasta

    Zest of 1 lemon

    MELT butter in a large skillet or saucepan. Add chopped onion. Season with salt and cook until soft and just beginning to turn brown. Add 2 cloves garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

    STIR flour into onions and garlic and mix well until flour is incorporated into melted butter.

    ADD milk and whisk to combine. Reduce heat, and let sauce simmer until it begins to thicken and look velvety, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

    ADD cheese and stir to combine. Season with nutmeg, pepper, and additional salt, if desired.

    WHEN sauce has thickened, add spinach a handful at a time, stirring to combine the spinach into sauce until it wilts before adding next handful. Once all spinach has been added, adjust seasonings if necessary.

    REMOVE from heat while chicken is cooking. Bring a pot of cold salted water to a boil for the pasta.

    HEAT a second skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom completely. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.

    Saute chicken on one side, then flip and cook on second side until cooked through and golden brown. Add remaining clove of minced garlic to skillet after flipping and watch to be sure it doesn’t burn.

    ADD pasta to water when chicken is almost done and boil to desired tenderness.

    REWARM the sauce. Using a fine grater, grate about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest (or more to taste) into the sauce and stir to combine. Divide pasta between two plates. Top with creamy spinach sauce, then chicken breast, then additional sauce. Garnish with more lemon zest, if desired.

    YIELD: 2 servings.



I’ve given up on this winter and decided to just pretend that it’s spring.

If you can force tulip bulbs inside, why not just force the rest of it too?

That meant I had to put away my slow cooker (but not before one really delicious pot of beef stew), forget the potatoes, dried beans and other rib-sticking, soul-warming fare, and embrace what’s fresh and green.

If this really were spring or summer, I’d head to the farmers market, pick up some corn on the cob and a couple of giant slicing tomatoes, and voila, dinner would be on the table.

While there are no locally grown tomatoes or corn to be had (and the tomatoes at the grocery store are so bland, even my husband refuses to buy them), there are farmers markets still going on during the winter.

When I got to one in my area of Ohio, the parking lot was full – make that overflowing.

I got there 10 minutes after the market opened, thinking I would be an early bird, but the early birds were already leaving with the cream of the crop, literally.

There were more people there than I remember seeing at some summer markets. Perhaps it is in the dead of a harsh winter when we appreciate freshly harvested foods the most and maybe, like me, the others just needed a jolt of spring to get through the next six weeks.

I enjoyed seeing friends and acquaintances who came out to shop, and found a variety of foods from meat and eggs to apples and pastries.

Unfortunately, I was reminded that we are indeed in the middle of a harsh Ohio winter, when the only fresh green I found was spinach. There were radishes, potatoes, onions and other root crops, but I was hoping for a few more above-the-ground crops.

With a pound of spinach in my bag, I soldiered onward.

Meat was everywhere: beef, pork, buffalo, lamb, roasts, burgers, bacon and sausage. But again, I decided to think spring. For me, warmer months mean lighter fare, so I opted for fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Passing on potatoes and other grains wasn’t a problem when I found a display of fresh pasta and purchased a few nests of pappardelle, or ribbon pasta. I finished up my shopping with some garlic and onions, and I was all set to cook a spring-inspired meal.

I did make a stop at the grocery store for a lemon, which, truth be told, I wouldn’t find locally grown even at a summer market.

Here’s the recipe for my warm-weather-inspired dish, which came together quickly and gave me hope that farm-fresh local produce will be here before we know it.

Lisa Abraham writes for the Akron Beacon Journal. Email: labraham@thebeaconjournal.com.
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