Here is Monday’s Menu – a few days late! Culinary travels to Michigan and back interfered with timely posting this week! So, technically, consider this your early weekend menu.
In the summertime when days are long and hot, simplicity is best. This is one of my favorite summer menus that takes advantage of flavorful summer vegetables and offers the simplicity of grilled meat. With sliced fruit for dessert there is no muss, no fuss . . . just great flavors and beautiful colors on your dinner plate. To balance the taste profiles represented here, complement the meal with a chilled bottle of your favorite Pinot Grigio wine.
Though the recipes listed here are written as standalone recipes, don’t be afraid to double up the items in your oven to conserve energy and time. When cooking several dishes as once, ensure even spacing of your oven racks and position dishes to allow maximum heat/air flow between them.
Menu for Six (plus leftovers):
- Summer Vegetable Tian
- Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Adriana’s Sugo di Pomodoro
- Mixed Greens with Aged Balsamic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Salad Croutons
- Grilled Olive Oil Herbed Chicken
- Warm Tuscan Bread
- Sliced Fruit
Basic Shopping List (in addition to your stocked pantry items):
- 2 zucchini or summer squash
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 4 plum tomatoes (also known as Roma tomatoes)
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (your favorite kind)
- 3 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes*
- 6-8 slices stale bread
*I prefer to use fire-roasted tomatoes. The smokiness adds another note to the overall flavor of the prepared tomatoes.
Summer Vegetable Tian
2 zucchini or summer squash
4 plum tomatoes (also known as Roma tomatoes)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (your favorite kind)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash and slice vegetables thinly. If you have a food processor, slice the zucchini and mushrooms using the thin slicing blade to ensure even cuts.
Prepare fluted pie plate or quiche dish by brushing with olive oil.
- Begin to arrange the vegetables in concentric circles working from the outside in, starting with zucchini. The first layer is
the trickiest because the vegetable slices will want to slide. Don’t worry about this – simply correct positioning when you arrange the next layer. This arrangement does not have to be perfect. Vegetables will naturally condense during the cooking process.
- After you’ve arranged the vegetables, brush generously with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Any remaining vegetables can be squeezed into the dish or reserved to use as salad ingredients later.
- Bake in preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes to an hour until vegetables are very tender.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with a loaf of Tuscan bread.
- Leftovers can be chopped finely to use as a delicious sandwich spread.
Grilled Olive Oil Herbed Chicken
3 pounds boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into equal portions
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
Cracked black pepper
- At least four hours before cooking time, add oil and seasonings to large zippered freezer bag.
Add chicken breasts and seal bag tightly.
- Through the bag (no mess!) massage seasoned oil into chicken until each piece is thoroughly coated. Store in refrigerator until just before serving time, turning and massaging occasionally.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator and preheat the grill to medium-high. You can spray your grilling grates with non-stick cooking spray, but it isn’t really necessary – the oil in the marinade should be more than adequate.
- On hot grill, space chicken breasts a few inches apart. Discard marinade bag to avoid cross contamination of raw poultry juices with cooked food.
- Cook chicken with grill lid closed for approximately five minutes on the first side. While chicken is cooking, wash or replace grilling utensils.
- Flip chicken and cook for a few additional minutes. Keep checking meat for doneness. Chicken should be cooked to a
minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.
- Place cooked chicken on a serving plate and cover loosely with foil for several minutes before serving. Wash or replace utensils before serving.
Warm Tuscan Bread
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Adriana’s Sugo di Pomodoro
1 large spaghetti squash
1/3 cup chicken stock
Freshly ground sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Sugo di Pomodoro (see below)
Parmesan Reggiano cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- On large cutting board, cut spaghetti squash into quarters. This will take some effort as the squash will be quite firm and difficult to cut through. Use a broad, very sharp knife – and be careful!
- Using a serrated spoon or fork, scrape seeds from squash interior. If you’ve ever carved a jack-o-lantern at Halloween, this is a similar process. Discard waste.
- Arrange summer squash quarters flesh side up on baking sheet.
- Drizzle with chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast uncovered for approximately 40 minutes until squash is tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10
- When squash is cool enough to handle, hold one quarter in the palm of your hand and scrape squash into a bowl. The squash will separate like strands of spaghetti. Repeat until all squash has
- In large skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil. Add squash and sauté lightly until warmed through. Add Sugo di Pomodoro to pan and turn off heat. Toss squash strands in sauce to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve and garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese.
Adriana’s Sugo di Pomodoro
My friend Adriana Coppola is a very talented chef who understands the classic Italian palate. I’m borrowing this recipe from her to share with you here – it is already perfect! For more of her recipes, visit her blog at www.altacucinaitalia.com. I stock my kitchen with Adriana’s flavor infused olive oils and seasoning salt blends.
This excellent sauce is a fantastic base starting point to enhance any number of herbs, vegetables, meats and even fish dishes. Experiment with your additional ingredients to concoct your own signature sauce.
2 Tablespoons garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil
15 ounces can crushed tomatoes (no extra seasoning required)
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning salt (this contains garlic, basil and oregano)
- In medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil for one minute. Add tomatoes and
- Simmer mixture over medium-low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste and adjust seasonings to suit your personal preference.
Mixed Greens with Aged Balsamic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 pieces stale bread or rolls
Olive oil cooking spray
Butter seasoning (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheet by spraying generously with olive oil cooking spray.
- Cut bread or rolls into bite-sized pieces and arrange on baking sheet.
- Coat bread with a heavy layer of cooking spray. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and butter seasoning (optional).
- Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until goldenbrown and crispy.
- Store in an airtight container for up to several weeks. Serve croutons with soups or
salads, or enjoy as a snack.