I’ve been self-employed for right at two months. There are definitely ups and downs, but by and large, the positives far outweigh any negative. I am an extrovert, so the lack of social interaction sometimes gets under my skin. I’ve found ways to cope, or rather Joel found ways for me to cope after about three nights in a row of my landing on him like a flying squirrel when he walked through the door, peppering him with all of my pent-up thoughts, ideas and accomplishments. Poor guy.
Perhaps the chief positive is the flexibility. (Hello, it’s 2:30 on a workday and I am writing a blog about Rosemary-Crusted Chicken.) My Christmas gift from Joel was a gift certificate for a day at the spa. In the past, I would have booked it on a Saturday not wanting to waste a precious vacation day for actual rest and relaxation. On said Saturday, I would have gone to the spa in the morning, skipping my workout, and then afterward would have attempted to run all my weekend errands, which would have spilled over to Sunday and yadda, yadda, my day of rest and relaxation would have actually caused stress instead of alleviating it. Thus, the luxury of going to the spa on a Thursday was magnificent. I highly recommend it. Quit ye day jobs!
For me, the perfect end to a day of pampering is a good meal and a nice glass of wine. If you really enjoy exploring in the kitchen and cooking, as I do (welcome to my food blog, by the way), then having the time to really plan, prepare and focus on a meal is a treat. I’ve been pretty busy lately and have denied myself the luxury of daydreaming up dishes and culinary experiments. I’ve even given up my solo afternoon happy hours, which is probably for the best. But, yesterday, while sipping champagne at 10:55 in the morning following a heavenly massage and lavender wrap, I indulged (because I wasn’t already).
I’m off the Middle Eastern train. We’ve have enough za’atar and cardamom in our systems to self-mummify. That cuisine removed from the realm of possibility, my mind meandered through other regions, cultures, dishes and techniques, and I kept returning to Italian, but not Mediterranean Italian. I wanted rustic, northern, Tuscan Italian. I was inspired by the herbaceous nature of the spa I was at and really wanted to make use of the massive quantities of rosemary growing in my backyard, as well as some Greek oregano (I know, I said no Mediterranean, but it was just this one little thing).
I imagined a coarse and fragrant rosemary paste sticking to tender chicken. Pasta was what I really wanted to serve alongside, but we avoid it, even the gluten-free variety, unless it’s a special occasion. Instead, I decided to try my hand at a cold rice salad that I enjoyed when I was in Abruzzo, otherwise known as the poor man’s Tuscany. I arrived very late to my destination and missed the meal that my hosts had prepared. Luckily, they had figured on delays and made a flexible meal of cold dishes. The next day, with the imminent onset of jet lag, but a general excitement about being in Italy for the first time, this cold rice salad made of orzo, basil, capers, olives, baby corn, and cubes of cheese was just about the best thing I’d ever eaten. They made a lot of it, so I kept eating it for about three days. Then I got over it.
So, for Rosemary-Crusted Grilled Chicken and Cold Rice Salad, here’s what you’ll need:
Rosemary-Crusted Grilled Chicken:
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
7-8 sprigs Rosemary, buds pulled from sprigs
2 cloves garlic
1/2 TBSP Kosher salt
A few twists of freshly ground black pepper
3 TBSP olive oil
Place Rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and oil in a food processor. Pulse until you have a coarse paste.
Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add paste, seal bag, and mash around, massaging paste into chicken. Place bag on a plat and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Remove chicken from bag and grill over low heat until chicken is done. Pat any remaining paste onto the meat before grilling. Most of it will stick and you’ll have a lovely crust.
Pretty simple, huh?
Cold Rice Salad:
1 ½ cups water
1 cup Arborio rice, rinsed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1-2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
8 stalks of grilled, pickled asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 TBSP capers (depends on how salty you want it)
1/4 cup shaved almonds
3/4 TBSP fresh Greek oregano, finely chopped
3-4 basil leaves, julienned
3/4 TBSP fresh parsley, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring water to a boil in medium pan. Add rice with a bit of olive oil to avoid sticking. Cover and cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer rice from the pan to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.
*A note about the rice choice: I chose Arborio because I like its texture. It’s the rice typically used for risotto because it is so starchy, and thus creamy when cooked. This is why I say to rinse it before cooking. However, even after rinsing it will still give off a lot of starch and be quite creamy. I like that. If you don’t, you cold use orzo instead.
Once rice is chilled, add all ingredients and gently toss or fold to combine thoroughly. Return to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before serving.