Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Bounty of Fruit Gets Added to the Holiday Mix...

Roasted Turkey Breast Stuffed with Feta, Spinach, and Apple
Sautéed Gnudi with Leek and Piñata Apple Cream Sauce

As if the many brightly wrapped and beribboned gifts skirting our twinkling tree weren't enough of a bounty to behold this holiday season, a knock at our door on Christmas Eve announced an unexpected delivery of some of the most beautiful fruit we've ever seen...heaps of apples and pears, perfectly shaped and colored, each nestled in its own dimple-cushioned compartment to ensure its safe arrival. Four long boxes...each housing more than a dozen pieces of flawless fruit!!! Needless to say, this was more than a generous gift...and one that surely added to the sweetness of our holiday celebration. Thank you R & J.

Our entire bounty of fruit arrived from Stemilt Growers, located in Wenachee, Washington... beautiful D'Angou pears and an assortment of red apples. One particular apple we'd never heard of before...the Piñata, a beautiful apple with a wonderful crisp, juicy crunch. It has all the flavor of a classic apple with an added punch...a slightly tropical flavor. It's an apple that is exclusive to Stemilt and quickly gaining recognition for it heirloom heritage and unique characteristics -- firm and crunchy; bright white flesh (that resists browning when sliced); and excellent in a variety of uses from salads to sauces. In addition to its great poaching and baking qualities, the Piñata also freezes well. Quite a versatile little fruit!

Though we immediately sliced into a few pieces and enjoyed the snack immensely, we were thankful that the boxes included storing suggestions to ensure that we'd relish this gift for weeks to come. And, while we knew that we would greatly enjoy the sweet, simple perfection of savoring this fruit as Nature intended...au natural...I admit that I immediately began thinking of ways to incorporate it into our already planned holiday menus...

Roasted Turkey Breast Stuffed with Fresh Spinach, Feta, and Apple

With plans to serve a stuffed turkey breast on Christmas Day, our new lot of apples made the perfect addition to a stuffing of fresh spinach and feta cheese. Though I know that many people simply must have the traditional, whole roasted turkey over the holidays, this little stuffed breast is so easy, so tasty, and so beautiful to serve that I think it may just replace the annual bird in our home (and maybe even make it to the table on other nights during the year). I served slices of this turkey breast over a bed of sautéed Grated Zucchini, and laid medallions of sliced, roasted sweet potato alongside. Simple, fresh, flavorful...and festive! 

1 large turkey breast (skinned, de-boned, lightly pounded, and butterflied...by your butcher!)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I actually used 1/2 blue cheese and 1/2 feta...what I had on hand!)
1 cup fresh apple, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay turkey breast flat on work surface. Layer spinach, cheese, and apples over surface of breast. Roll breast (from longest edge), tucking filling in as you go, until it is rolled into a "log" shape. Using kitchen/cooking twine, secure roll by wrapping twine around log (circling it from one end to the other, and then tightly securing the tips of each end to prevent stuffing from escaping). Drizzle breast with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Rub seasoning into meat. Place turkey roll into a roasting pan and place in oven for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until inside temperature reaches 170 to 180 degrees.

2. Remove turkey roll to cutting board and transfer roasting pan to stove top to prepare a gravy, if desired. Simply place your roasting pan on stove top (or transfer drippings to a skillet, if preferred). Add a cup or so of water and bouillon (or chicken stock) to pan and bring to a low boil. Scrape drippings from pan to incorporate into gravy. To thicken, add a little flour or cornstarch (about a 1/4 cup). To prevent lumps from forming, make sure you mix your thickener with some water or butter to create a little mixture to add to your pan juices. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: This recipe would work great with chicken breasts as well. 

Sauteed Gnudi with Leek and Piñata Apple Cream Sauce

Just before the holidays, we ventured into a new restaurant for a late night meal. We had just attended a couple of cocktail gatherings when we realized we'd never had a proper dinner...and we were starving. Being that it was after nine o'clock on a weeknight, we weren't sure we'd find any restaurant kitchens still serving a dinner menu. Assured that Beeker & Flask would...and buoyed by the kudos that came with this recommendation...we arrived ready for sustenance.

Both of us ordered salads and chose to share a Gnudi dish (pronounced "nude-y"). I've tried Gnocchi before...but never Gnudi...one has more flour and potato (usually) and the other is made with ricotta, respectively. It was absolutely DE-lish-ous!! And, by the way, appropriately titled given that it's kind of a pasta filling without its covering.

Though our hunger may have prompted the quick slurping down of this amazing dish, I knew it demanded an opportunity to be made in our home so I quizzed our server on the ingredients. Though no official recipe was offered, he did provide us with the primary additives...to which I quickly applied the acronym P.E.R.F. (lest I forget)...parsley, eggs, ricotta, and flour. The sauce was leek- and cream-based...something I figured I could approximate with a little forethought.

I had planned to plate this dish up as an appetizer for our holiday gathering...and then our bounty of fruit arrived. So I decided to add apples to the mix...namely the tasty Piñata...and it proved to be a great addition, providing a slightly sweet undertone to the creamy leeks..perfection! Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed this starter. I mean what's not to like about a little airy pillow of ricotta perfection, sautéed in butter and piled atop a creamy sauce of leeks and apple. Yum is an understatement! I can say this because it truly wasn't my idea...just a take-off from a very fortunate late-night dining experience. If we could have (with any etiquette...and human ability) jumped right into our bowls of gnudi to finish up every last little drop of goodness, we would have. Enough said.

I won't lie and say that this little gnudi is a quick or easy prep. It's a finicky little pillow of delight. After researching a few recipes with variations on how to boil (slow or full-throttle), how many eggs to add, whether to add additional yolks, etc., I came up with the following. And, while our dish was listed as an entree, I prefer it as a starter. After all, we've got eggs, flour, butter, cream...hmmm...thus my decision to assign these nuggets to the appetizer menu. All good things in moderation.

This may not be the dish to make when you have a large menu to plan or many guests to cater to (just my opinion) but it is definitely one to make. I made it the day after Christmas...with our family happily lounging, football on the tube, and bubbly poured...a perfect time to be piddling in the kitchen.

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (for transferring dollops of gnudi)
2 cups semolina flour (to serve as a bed for your gnudi while chilling)
3 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 Piñata apple (or apple of your choice), peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
sprinkle of nutmeg, if desired
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Spread cup of all-purpose flour out over clean surface or cutting board. 

2. Spread semolina flour out over a large baking sheet.

3. In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg yolks, parsley, salt, and pepper, until well mixed. Using a small spoon (like a teaspoon) pick up a small dollop of mix on tip of spoon (like a 3-pea-sized portion) and drop into the all-purpose flour. Roll around carefully (with tip of spoon or finger) to coat lightly with flour. Then transfer flour-dusted dollop to semolina-covered baking sheet. Continue scooping, dropping, rolling, and placing uncooked gnudi onto semolina. Place baking sheet into fridge to cool and set gnudi while you prepare your sauce.

4. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add leeks and sauté until leeks begin to soften. Add apples and sprinkle of nutmeg, continue to sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream, and broth and let simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken a bit and allow flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

5. Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil. Add handful of salt to water. Lay a sheet of parchment out to transfer boiled gnudi to when ready. Remove chilled gnudi from fridge. When water is at a slow-rolling boil, begin adding gnudi...just 5 to eight at a time so as not to crowd them. (NOTE: if you roll the gnudi around just a bit in the semolina, to coat them very lightly, then they will stay together better when they hit the water). There will be some flaking of gnudi in your water...don't worry about that. Once they are ready, they will float to the top of the water (just minutes). Let them roll here a bit and then remove them with a slotted spoon to waiting parchment. Continue process until you've boiled all your gnudi.

6. In a separate skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons butter and let it brown just a tad. Carefully add gnudi, in portions, to pan and sauté until lightly golden on all sides. Transfer sautéed gnudi to a parchment-lined plate when done. Heat leek-apple-cream sauce. For each serving, plate approximately a 1/4 cup of sauce in a shallow bowl, top with 5 to 7 gnudi and serve!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blue Cheese and Candied Walnut Puff Pastry Bites

Unless I'm planning an appetizer and cocktails get-together (which I sometimes think is more involved than throwing together a dinner party for eight or more), the little nibbles I serve before a dinner party are oftentimes an afterthought...though not purposely so. Usually I've got my dinner menu planned and everything prepped and ready to go so there's minimal time spent running around once our guests arrive. And then...oops...that final thought hits me...what should I serve as a simple appetizer to nibble with a pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine? I often resort to a simple, yet tasty, olive-veggie-cheese plate. A good cheese always seems to fit the bill (remember...potato-cheese-bread girl here). Perhaps a Manchego, some fig spread, a great cracker, and some dried or fresh fruit? Yum! Or, a creamy French Brie? Or, maybe my newest favorite, Cambozola? The only prerequisite is that it be a simple effort...a simple spread...a little nibble before the main attraction.

Out to dinner recently at one of our favorite restaurants, we were perusing the menu when just such a nibble arrived. As a welcoming gesture, our server brought us a complimentary appetizer...three little (itty bitty) squares of puffed pastry on a small white plate...each nibble just a tad larger than a postage stamp.

Well...these little bits may have been small but they were packed with flavor...crisp, buttery, puffed pastry; creamy, tart blue cheese; and sweet, crunchy candied walnuts. They were the perfect, simple bite. Just what a nibble should be! 

And...making them for ourselves this go-around allowed us to enjoy just a bit more than our initial 44-cent-sized portion.

Blue Cheese and Candied Walnut Puff Pastry Bites
makes approximately 20 to 24 individual, bite-sized appetizers


1 sheet frozen puffed pastry, defrosted (from 1-pound, 2-sheet box)
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup candied walnuts, coarsely chopped (see instructions following recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place defrosted puffed pastry onto a lightly-floured work surface. Gently roll pastry to an approximate 12-inch square. Fold up a half-inch edge on all four sides. Press edges with the tines of a fork (to seal and apply decorative mark). Lightly brush edges with water to seal. Prick entire interior surface of pastry square with fork. 

3. Transfer puffed pastry square to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle blue cheese over surface (to edge of folded border.)

Place in 400 degree F. oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown. When ready, remove from oven, prick puffed portions to release any "bubbles," sprinkle walnuts over square and return to oven for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. To serve as an appetizer, cut pastry into bite-sized pieces. (To serve as a tart -- with a salad -- cut into larger squares.)

Candied Walnuts
(for above appetizer portion)

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Melt sugar in skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. It will begin to clump and then melt to a golden caramel color. As soon as it is completely melted, turn heat off and add chopped walnuts, stirring thoroughly to coat.

2. Turn walnuts out onto parchment paper and move around a bit to ensure that it doesn't stick as it cools. Once cooled, lightly chop to break walnut mound up into bits. Place in a zip-lock baggie, once cooled (to store if not using immediately). 

Note: I usually heat a kettle of water while doing this so that I can add hot water to the "candied" skillet...this helps loads with clean-up.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Biscotti

These light and crisp, double-baked Italian cookies are a great alternative to the more traditional holiday cookie fare. They have a biscuit-like crunch and texture, and a mellowed sweetness, making them a perfect accompaniment to coffee, tea, milk...or an after-dinner dessert wine (like vin santo). 

And, in addition to their versatility in pairing with a morning coffee or a little night cap, they welcome most any flavoring from nuts and berries to chocolates and dried fruits. 

My favorite for this time of year is Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti. With its colorful pops of red and green, it makes a festive, dessert table display. And...because they are just a bit more unexpected from the more usual holiday cookie...they also make a great little gift -- piled high in a tin, or packaged in a clear bag tied with a colorful bow. 

One of the signature qualities of Biscotti is its crunch...achieved by double baking. Essentially, you prep your dough, then shape it into long logs that then get baked for about 25 minutes. Once baked, the logs then get placed on a cooling rack for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then... you reduce your oven temperature, cut the logs into thick slices, place them back onto a cookie sheet, and bake for them for another 15 to 20 minutes, until they are just firm to the touch and lightly golden. 

I figured that while I had to wait on the baking and cooling of these little biscuits, I might as well prep and bake another batch...Chocolate-Almond Biscotti, with coarsely-chopped, whole toasted almonds and mini chocolate chips. Yum! It was actually fairly simple to coordinate the two batches, prepping the second while the first "logs" bake; baking the second "logs" while the first batch cools, etc. 

Both of these recipes were clipped and filed a few years back. The Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti is adapted from...an adapted...Martha Stewart recipe, and one that I've made many times. Since these were going to also be bagged and placed in tins for gift-giving, the recipe here is for a dozen more cookies than the Chocolate-Almond Biscotti (which is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe). Each recipe called for slightly different baking and cooling times, as well as log-prep directions. With a few little changes here and there to make the processes more uniform, I think they turned out great. Perfectly crunchy...and mildly sweet!

Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti
adapted from an adapted Martha Stewart recipe 
makes 2 1/2 dozen (about 30 cookies)

2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup boiling water

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus more more sprinkling
4 large eggs, divided (3 for baking and 1 for wash)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsalted, coarsely chopped pistachios

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Place cranberries in a small bowl and add boiling water (to reconstitute/plump berries). Let stand until plump, about 15 minutes. Drain berries and set aside (I leave them in a strainer, set over a bowl to allow them to drain completely while other prepping is done. You do not want the berries to be moist when adding them to your dough).

3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

4. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Mix in cranberries and pistachios.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape each half into an approximate 16-inch by 2-inch log. 

Then transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, placing them about 3 inches apart. With the palm of your hand, flatten logs slightly to uniform shape. Brush beaten egg over surface of the dough logs, and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

6. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through (note: Chocolate-Almond recipe below does not call for this rotation), until logs are slightly firm to touch and lightly golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer logs on parchment to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. (note: since I then baked the Chocolate-Almond logs, I reduced the temp after this second batch...and continued with second bakings at the reduced temp. Also...while I suggest this 325 degree F. setting, I did bake this batch at a recommended 300 degree F. temp. Both settings work... though the slightly higher temp results in a more crunchy biscuit).

7. Place logs on a cutting board.
Using a serrated knife (important...as it allows you to "saw" gently through logs and avoid them being reduced to a crumbled mess), cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into approximate 3/4-inch slices. 

Stand slices upright on baking sheet and return to 325 degree F. oven to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until just golden and firm to touch. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Chocolate-Almond Biscotti
adapted from Cooking Light recipe
makes 1 1/2 dozen (about 18 cookies)

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole almond, toasted lightly
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Coarsely chop almonds and add to flour mixture.

3. Combine eggs and extract, stirring well with a whisk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just blended (dough will be crumbly). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 7 or 8 times. Divide dough in half and shape each half into two, 9-inch by 2-inch logs. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. Transfer on parchment to wire rack to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Using serrated knife, cut logs crosswise on diagonal into 3/4-inch slices. Stand slices upright on baking sheet and return to reduced temp oven (325 degrees F.) for final baking, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Roasted Chicken and Egg Noodle Soup

Sharing a recipe for a traditional chicken soup (ours being a chicken noodle soup) may seem a bit redundant in that most families probably have a favorite rendition of this classic that's either been passed down through generations or created anew. And regardless of whether it's a very traditional version, developed from a homemade chicken stock, or one that comes from a can, I think it's safe to surmise that chicken soup is a staple in most every home...in this country and beyond. While our little version of this classic has rich egg noodles, shredded pieces of oven-roasted chicken breast, slivers of fresh carrot, slices of celery, and finely chopped bits of onion all in a mellow, flavorful, tarragon-seasoned chicken stock...there are scores of recipes that would qualify as "classic chicken soups."

That being said...this one is our own quick* and satisfying go-to recipe for this comforting staple. For most people, chicken noodle soups truly do spell c-o-m-f-o-r-t. They are the soup-of-choice when you need a little something to cure what ails you...whether it's a long day, a little sniffle, or simply...the weather! With our temps back up a tad but our skies unleashing a continuous drizzle, this Roasted Chicken and Egg Noodle Soup is the perfect prescription.

Roasted Chicken and Egg Noodle Soup
from A Savory Nest
serves 4 to 6

3 cups shredded, roasted chicken (from about 2 to 3 large chicken breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onions, diced (1 medium onion)
1 cup carrots, sliced (about 2 medium-sized carrots)
1 cup celery, sliced (2 to 3 celery stalks)
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
8 cups chicken stock (or a combination of boxed stock and bouillon...see recipe below)
2 to 3 teaspoons French tarragon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
kosher salt, to taste 
8-ounce bag of egg noodles (I used half a 16-ounce bag of Natural Value organic egg noodles)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Roast skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (seasoned with salt and pepper, and lightly rubbed with olive oil) for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, until done. When ready, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions, cook for about 1 minute. Add carrots and celery, continue cooking until onion is soft and translucent. Sprinkle in poultry seasoning and cook for an additional 30 seconds or so. Add chicken stock (I used about 6 cups of Pacific-brand, low-sodium, organic chicken stock, 2 cups water, and 1 1/2 cubes of Harvest Sun Organic Chicken Bouillon...1 cube=2 cups stock...so yes, it's a bit more bouillon than water...but it works). Season with pepper. Add salt, to taste. Add in tarragon.

3. Simmer soup stock for about 20 to 25 minutes to allow flavors to meld. While soup is simmering, remove skin from chicken breasts, and meat from bones. Shred roasted chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to stock. Continue cooking until stock has simmered for at least 20 minutes and chicken is heated through. Add additional salt and pepper, to taste. (We often serve our soup with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese on top...it adds a nice little salty, flavorful zip). Add additional stock on Day Two if your soup is a bit "thick."

* "Quick" is relative here. Since this recipe does not call for a homemade chicken stock, it is "relatively" quick. It's really the time spent in roasting your chicken breasts that takes this from a 30- to 40-minute prep/cook meal, to over an hour's time. If you need to fast forward a bit, simply use a roasted chicken from the deli section of your favorite market...or pre-roast your chicken beforehand.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Penne Rigate with Feta, Baby Broccoli, and Grape Tomatoes (served with Chicken)

I originally bought the organic baby broccoli (used in this dish) for a simple side dish (that I happen to LOVE) and planned to prepare. It's basically just a quick sauté of thinly sliced, fresh garlic, in olive oil, and long cuts of fresh baby broccoli (just tossed and turned enough to brown up and crisp the garlic, and cook the broccoli without sacrificing its tender crunch). Once it's about ready, you toss in some dried cranberries (trust me...it works!). It's super easy and yet so tasty. The broccoli and garlic make a perfect flavor pairing...and then the cranberries give the whole thing a wonderful, punchy, sweet-tart pop. (I make this side year round but, given its festive colors, it would be particularly suiting and delicious to serve with a holiday dinner.)

However...being that our temps were in the 20's this week (burrrr), I felt the need for something a bit heartier and satisfying (great side...aside). The only stipulation is it needed to be quick and easy....and include the baby broccoli! The days are ticking by and the "to-do" list is growing exponentially with each passing minute. Dinners, of late, have all been in the 20- to 40-minute range (from thought to finish). 

This little pasta is a throw-together recipe I came up with awhile back, and one we always enjoy. You can keep it vegetarian or serve it up with strips of sauteéd chicken breasts, as I did. The combination is good and the chicken (what I call my "no-brainer" chicken...think everyone has their own little "go-to," quick-prep variety of chicken) is super easy and tasty. The benefit of having the accompanying chicken is you'll use the same pan to get your pasta goodies going and, thus, get to use the leftover chicken flavorings in the pan (yum). I used boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (organic) that I just lightly pounded (between plastic wrap)...not so much to thin them out as to just get them more uniform with regard to thickness. This way they cook up very evenly. I season them generously with salt, black pepper, and dry Italian seasoning, and then just sauté them in olive oil (I used about three tablespoons oil for two large breasts). Once you drop them in the pan, just let them do their thing...turning only once to flip them over. Once you get your chicken started, put your pasta water on to boil ("season" it with a good toss of salt). I used just slightly less then a full 16-ounce box of penne rigate.

Once your chicken breasts are done, remove them to a cutting board and loosely cover them with foil to keep them warm...and get started on your pasta fixings. In the same skillet you used for your chicken, add another tablespoon of olive oil and scrape the pan a bit to loosen all the yummy chicken bits left behind. Add some chopped onion (I used about 1/4 cup) and some chopped garlic (about three or four large cloves) to your pan. Sauté onions and garlic until the onion just begins to brown up a tad. Add in your long cuts of fresh baby broccoli and sauté until just tender...but still crunchy (maybe three to five minutes). Season your veggies lightly with salt and pepper (you'll be adding pasta water later, so don't get carried away with adding too much salt!). Once the broccoli is done, your pasta should also be ready (about nine to 11 minutes for al dente).

If not, just turn off your burner (if gas) or remove your pan of broccoli from the burner for a bit until your pasta is done. Once you're back in business, using a slotted spoon/ladle, transfer cooked pasta directly to your pan of broccoli (don't drain it and lose all your pasta water!). Add a few ladles of pasta water to your pasta/broccoli mix (it's good and starchy...perfect to help get your sauce going). 

Stir your pasta and broccoli together, then add in a full, eight-ounce container of crumbled feta cheese (I used one that was punched up with some roasted garlic and herb seasonings...add more if you'd like). Mix feta into your pasta/broccoli mix and let it dissolve into a loose sauce (adding a bit more pasta water, if needed). The "sauce" will be very light...adding flavor more than substance. Toss in some good, shredded parmesan cheese (maybe 1/4 cup) and some halved grape tomatoes (I used about a cup of halved Sugar Plum Grapes Tomatoes). Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper, to taste. (In the amount indicated here, this "recipe" should give you four hearty servings of pasta).

Cut your chicken into strips...

Plate your pasta and top with some chicken and a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese. This is a great, quick, satisfying meal. Yet...with the light, flavorful feta-based "sauce," fresh baby broccoli, and ripe little tomatoes...it's a hearty and healthy pasta!

Note: Regular broccoli will certainly work in this dish as well. I just prefer baby broccoli, with its tender florets and long, crunchy stalks.