Dinner at the Neighbors’

Last night I was invited to the neighbors’ house for dinner.  Actually I was invited to peruse their refrigerator and make dinner.  A unique invitation to be sure and not an opportunity to use recipes so I had to wing it.  Here’s what I had to work with:  chicken breast, kale, summer squash, onions, asparagus, cucumbers and grape tomatoes.  I’m not a fan of kale so I ruled that out immediately.  The cucumbers didn’t look great so I ruled those out as well. I made a quick trip home to pick up some pancetta that I needed to use and some fresh parmesan.  I also picked up my cast iron skillet and a good knife.  I find that people who don’t cook much tend to have crummy knives.

So, I cut a pocket in each chicken breast and put in a piece of pancetta and some curls of Parmesan.  Some salt and pepper on the outside and those were ready for a smoking hot cast iron skillet with a touch of olive oil in the bottom.  Six minutes on each side and you’re good to go.  Don’t move them around once you put the chicken breasts in the pan.  It will tear the meat.  Once the heat of the pan has formed a little crust on the chicken it will flip easily without sticking.  It’s the high heat cooking that prevents sticking, not the oil.

Squash and onions is an age old side dish around here so that was a no brainer.  Normally I do that in my iron skillet as well, but I only had the one to work with and it was full of chicken.  Slice the squash into discs and the onion into ribbons.  I had a limited spice rack to work with so I added some salt, pepper and dried basil to the vegetables.  Again, heat a little olive oil in a pot until it smokes.  Add the vegetables and stir them occasionally until they’re soft. The sweetness of the basil with the sweet summer squash is a lovely combination and a terrific companion for the salty chicken.

Finally I halved the grape tomatoes and tossed them in olive oil, salt and garlic powder with the asparagus spears.  Spread them out on a baking sheet and put them under a broiler.  It will only take them a few minutes to roast so keep an eye on them and shake them around from time to time so they don’t burn on one side.

Not a bad dinner for zero planning, no idea what options I would have and just a few tools to work with.  Nothing fancy to be sure, but darn good.  Low fat for those of you watching that.  Low carb for those of you tracking that.  And somewhere around 7 points for those of you doing the Weight Watchers thing.  This post is clearly not about a recipe, more to let you know that it is possible to put together a dinner at the last minute and have it on the table in 30 minutes or so.  Good to know in case folks ever stop by without calling ahead!

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