Thursday, September 25, 2008

From Justin to Kelly...One Year Later

This blog is a very special one. Not only because it's my 50th (!) post, but because it's in celebration of my dear friends' Kelly and Justin's (almost) first year together (Justin, stop shaking like an Italian greyhound).

They met when I brought them together last summer for some really bad Thai Chicken Soup (which they were great sports about), and here we are, one year hence, eating chicken all over again!

Let's see what's changed in the last year: Kelly's hair is darker, Justin and I no longer work directly on the same account, and Kelly got an unexpected one-month sabbatical from her job as Chicago's duchess of print production, only to return when they realized they couldn't live without her daily fabulosity! So, to be succinct, not much.

I almost forgot: we moved! This is our new apartment:

And to celebrate how sometimes, things staying (almost) the same are really what make you the happiest, I present to you, my blog's post-hiatus relaunch meal: Thyme-Roasted Chicken Breast with Warm Rice and Spinach Salad. (If my blog had sound effects, you'd be hearing triumphant horns right now.)

The hummus we ate as an appetizer:


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, fat trimmed off
6-7 sprigs fresh thyme
salt, pepper, and a little olive oil for the chicken
1 and 1/2 c. uncooked brown rice medley
chicken broth to cook the rice in (use to replace the cooking water, if desired)
1 T. butter or olive oil for the rice mixture
2 red onions, sliced into half-moons
1 T. olive oil, to caramelize the onions
1 and 1/2 bags baby spinach leaves
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
2 c. grape tomatoes
2 T. oilve oil for the tomatoes
2 T. balsamic vinegar
8-10 small marinated mozzarella balls, drained of most oil
chopped fresh parsley for garnish


Preheat the oven to 375. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish, and season with salt and pepper, and drizzle a little olive oil over the top, rubbing it in. Place in the oven, and cook until juices run clear (about 30 minutes).


Wash and drain the grape tomatoes. Place in a baking dish, and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Bake for about 45 minutes at 375. The last 5-10 minutes of baking, nestle the marinated mozzarella balls into the tomatoes and let them bake until they begin to melt.


Slice the red onions into thin half-moons, and cook them in a little olive oil over medium-high heat for about 20-25 minutes, until they caramelize (get nice and brown and soft).


Cook the rice mixture according to package directions. When almost all the broth has been obsorbed, stir in the spinach leaves, toasted pine nuts (just sautee them in a dry pan for about 8-10 minutes until they begin to brown), and caramelized onions. Add the squeeze of lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the spinach leaves wilt, and then leave the lid on until you're ready to serve.


Place a chicken breast on each place, and spoon some of the tomato-and-mozzarella over it, getting some of the juicy sauce on there, too. Serve the warm rice salad as a side dish. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley.


KELLY: Very good. I like the melty mozzarella in the tomatoes.

ROSS: I thought the chicken and tomatoes had excellent synergy. It's nice not to eat out.

JUSTIN: I thought the tomatoes were really good, but I could've used even more sauce. And normally I don't like onions, but these tasted really good - but I wish they were chopped up into smaller pieces, so I could've just tasted them, andnot felt like I was really eating onions.

MY VOTE ON MY DISH: 6 stars. I thought the chicken was nice and lean, although I think I should've taken it out of the oven about 10 minutes earlier. And I also should've more closely watched the mozzarella - I wanted it to be melty, but not so melty that it completely disappeared and sunk to the bottom of the baking dish. I wanted them to still be recognizable as balls of cheese. The tomatoes were tasty, though, and I thought the rice salad came out well. The squeeze of lemon balanced out the sweetness of the onions. Overall, tasty, filling, and healthful, without being too heavy.

I stupidly forgot to take pictures of our guests of honor, Justin and Kelly, but here's a picture of them from awhile back:

(They are still just as lovely.)

We tried out the new dining room table (which is to say, we ate off our coffee table since we no longer have a "dining" table), but it held up our plates just fine.

We drank a great pinot noir that Kelly brought (she has a knack for picking out great wines with screwcaps), and of course, toasted to a great year behind us - and hopefully to another one ahead.

Thanks to my guests!

More soon...

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