Cooking with Kids: Lemon Chicken Soup with Egg Strands

A light and lemony chicken soup with chicken meatballs, peas, and feathery egg strands is the best comfort food. An updated classic that’s fun for kids to help make and eat!

cooking with kids: Lemon Chicken Soup with Egg Strands

Cooking with Meredith

yumm, a bowl of lemon chicken soup

What came first: the chicken or the egg?

That’s the question Meredith and I were debating as we cooked this soup. Unfortunately we couldn’t solve that age old conundrum.

But the soup, with both chicken and egg in it, tasted so good we didn’t care. Light and flavourful, with a fresh lilt of lemon, bright green peas, and delicate egg strands (that reminded us of downy ‘feathers’), plus some tasty meatballs – yum. It would serve just as well for a bowl of comfort on a chilly winter day as it would for a light meal on a warm spring day. Add some flaky biscuits, and life is great.

And of course – chicken soup and the power of lemon – what better way to help soothe a nasty cold or flu?

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes:  If children are helping roll the meatballs, remind them to not touch anything with ‘chickeny’ hands and to wash well with soap after rolling. It’s a good time to talk about being clean in the kitchen to prevent germ contamination.

If you have a whole pound (454gms) of ground chicken and would like to use it up, double the meatball recipe, then use half of the meatballs for the soup and bake the other half in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes. Cool them and freeze them to add to pasta sauce or to add to another batch of this soup when you make it again.

Or just make a double batch of the soup and you’ll have some great leftovers for work or school lunches. Mmm, I’d love a thermos container of this soup in my lunch.

Lazyman (or woman) version: Just use two uncooked chicken breasts, diced, instead of the chicken meatballs.

Lemon Chicken Soup in the pot

Lemon Chicken Soup with Egg Strands and Meatballs

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cups (960ml) chicken stock, homemade or good quality purchased
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the chicken meatballs:

  • ½ lb. (225gms) lean ground chicken
  • ¼ cup  (25gms) quick oats (small-flake rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or dill, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 teaspoon oil

Dice the onion and celery into small pea-sized cubes.

Heat the tablespoon of butter and tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.

Add the diced onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

While the vegetables are cooking, mix the meatball ingredients: Combine the ground chicken, rolled oats, salt, pepper, and parsley or dill. Mix with your hands or a spoon until well combined. Add the teaspoon of oil and mix again – this will make the mixture less sticky.

Add the chicken stock, lemon zest, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to the sauteed onions and celery. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer while you roll the meatballs.

Roll the ground chicken mixture into 24 small meatballs, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in diameter.

Turn the chicken soup back up to medium heat. Gently drop the meatballs into the simmering soup, one by one. Cook for 5 minutes.

Crack the two eggs into a small bowl, and beat them lightly with a fork.

Gently stir the simmering soup with a wooden spoon with one hand and pour the beaten eggs into the soup in a thin stream at the same time with the other hand. The egg will separate into thin strands or ‘feathers’.

Add the frozen peas and let the soup come back up to a gentle boil. Add the lemon juice. Remove the bay leaf. Taste and add more salt if the soup needs it.

Serves 4.

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

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Easy Baked Caponata – a Sicilian Treasure

Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant and vegetable dish that’s a bit sweet, a bit tangy, and full of rich flavour, makes the best appetizer. A bowl of this in your fridge is like a stash of gourmet gold.

Sicilian Caponata

When we were in Sicily, I discovered the amazing CAPONATA – a rich vegetable stew/relish/side-dish. It’s like ratatouille but with an attitude; an in-your-face, ‘I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse‘ ballsy attitude.

The first town we stopped at, once we’d disembarked from the ferry and driven about an hour along the autostrada, was the seaside town of Cefalù. We dropped off our bags at  our B&B (well, we tried to, but it was quite an ordeal maneuvering the car down the narrow street of the old town, trying to stop long enough to unload, lugging the bags up the narrow staircase, finding a place to park a couple kilometres away at the public harbour, then hiking all the way back – uphill – and finallyyyyyy . . . ) then we walked along the charming old cobbled street to find a place to eat.

Caponata, and Coastline along Cefalu, Sicily

We were hungry (hangry), but restaurants were mostly closed until dinnertime. We ducked into a dimly-lit little place that looked like a cross between a disco lounge and a motorcycle showroom (not sure what made us choose that one), and asked the owner if we could get something to eat. He was most accommodating. We were the only people in the place and he directed us to a teeny-tiny balcony out the back side of the building. It was only big enough to hold one small table and two chairs, but oh my – the ocean was right there, just past a rocky strip of shore.

Caponata at Cefalu's seaside

We settled into those chairs, ordered a cold glass of wine, and happiness slowly trickled back into my veins. I ordered a dish of caponata and Raymond ordered the Pasta Norma (one of Sicily’s signature pasta dishes). I was smitten with my first forkful.

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I don’t know if it was just that I was so hungry, or that it was the first dish I ate in Sicily, or the wonderful ocean breeze cooling my sweating brow, (or that delicious cold glass of wine), but that caponata hit me in the forehead, picked me up, and dropped me back into my chair.

It was soooooo good.

It looked kind of like a dark ratatouille, but I wasn’t prepared for the zing of the vinegar, or the sweetness singing through the creamy eggplant, or the depth of flavour from the olives and pools of tomato-red oil. I lapped up every bit of that caponata (grudgingly offering Raymond a taste). It was an act of restraint not to lick the plate clean, but I wiped off the last bits of flavour with a swish of bread.

caponata, and bride in Cefalu

wedding day stroll in Cefalu

caponata, late afternoon at the beach in Cefalu

late afternoon at the beach in Cefalu

After that I was on ‘Mission Caponata’, ordering it whenever I could. And there were as many different versions of this sweet-sour eggplant dish as there are good cooks on the sunny Sicilian island (only about a zillion). Some, like that first one, were basically eggplant, onions, celery, and olives. Several included carrots, red pepper or both. Some had raisins or pine nuts, some didn’t. One was quite spicy. Some had the vegetables in large chunks, some had them cut smaller. The unifying factor was eggplant and olives, with a sweet and sour base and lots of lovely olive oil.

So, as you can see, in the world of caponata, almost anything goes.

The beauty for us home cooks is that we can customize this dish to our tastes.

delivering fresh fruit in Cefalu

now that’s farm-to-table delivery

Most recipes say to deep-fry the eggplants separately, cook the vegetables separately, and combine it all at the end. One of my little souvenir cookbooks gives an oven-baked version (though you needed to fry the eggplant separately here, too). I’ve made several batches of caponata since I’ve returned from my holiday, tweaking them until I’ve come up with the flavour profile we love the most and which reminds me of the best caponatas I tasted in Sicily.

caponata, farmland in sicily

driving through the rolling vistas in central Sicily

Caponata, shepherd and sheep in Sicily

we had to stop for this shepherd to get his sheep across the road

caponata, road in Sicily

sometimes the road got ‘interesting’

So . . . I’ve figured out a lazy way to make caponata. No deep-frying of the eggplant. Sauté it all together, plunk it in the oven, and bake it. My version of caponata is not quite as dark in colour as the true Sicilian ones, but the taste is just as I remember it from our glorious meals in Sicily.

Caponata, building in Modica, Sicily Caponata, View from church steps in Modica

Make yourself a batch of caponata just before the Christmas festivities start, and you’ll have a secret weapon to pull out of the fridge whenever guests arrive. It can be the star of an antipasti platter, lovely to just eat with a fork, or to pile onto crackers or chewy Italian or French bread, or serve it as a side dish for a light sandwich lunch or full course meal.

caponata, grapes hanging heavy in vineyard in Sicily

grapes were hanging heavy in the numerous vineyards. some of them will be dried into raisins which help sweeten the caponata

 

Caponata, street in Caltagirone, Sicily Caponata, church in Modica, Sicily

We had a group of friends for dinner last weekend, and here’s a photo of our antipasti tray. (A little dish of honey to drizzle onto your cheese cubes or salami slices is a tasty Italian trick.)

caponata antipasti tray with sausages and cheese

caponata in center, photo courtesy of Sabina Bonifazi

Nicoletta, who grew up in Rome and writes the lovely blog SugarLoveSpices with her husband Loreto, said the caponata tastes just like the ones she’s had in Italy, so I think I’m on the right track.

caponata, abandoned farmhouse in Sicily

abandoned farmhouse in the hills of Sicily

Don Vito Corleone: “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” (The Godfather),  but “caponata is a dish best served slightly warm or at room temperature” (The Kitchen Frau).

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Caponata lends itself easily to freewheeling. Adjust the ingredients to your tastes and to what you have in your fridge. Capers can be omitted, as can the nuts or the raisins (although the bits of crunch provided by the nuts is a nice contrast). Amounts of vegetables don’t need to be exact. Add a pinch of chili flakes if you’d like it spicy. As long as you have a nice balance of sweet and sour, and a good dose of olive oil to make it silky and luxurious, your caponata will still be delicious.

Sicilian caponata, bread, and crackers

Oven-Baked Caponata

  • ½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, cut into ½ inch/1cm dice
  • 1 cup (125gms) diced celery
  • 1 red pepper, diced (or 2 carrots, finely diced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 eggplant (aubergine) (1-1¼lbs/450-550gms)
  • 1 can (14 oz/398ml) Italian tomatoes
  • ½ cup (75gms) coarsely chopped pitted green olives
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts (or slivered almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Dice the onion, celery, and red pepper into ½ inch (1cm) cubes. Heat ¼ cup (60ml) of the olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, celery, red pepper, salt, pepper, and oregano for 5 minutes.

Dice the eggplant into ¾ inch (1.5cm) cubes and add them to the vegetables. Sauté for 5 more minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, breaking the tomatoes up with your hands into small bits. Add the olives, raisins, pine nuts, capers, vinegar, and sugar. Stir gently to combine everything, being careful not to break up the eggplant chunks.

If you are using a skillet, transfer the vegetables to a casserole dish. If you are using a dutch oven, smooth the top of the vegetables with a spoon. Pour the remaining ¼ cup (60ml) of olive oil over the top of the caponata vegetables in the dutch oven or casserole dish. Cover with a lid or tin foil.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool partially. Stir gently to distribute the oil throughout. Serve warm or at room temperature with bread or crackers, as a part of an antipasti platter, or as a side dish to a meal.

Caponata will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 6 cups (1.5l).

Buon Appetito!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

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Cooking with Kids: Classic Seven Minute Frosting for a Birthday Cake

Seven Minute Frosting is a classic. Basically sugar and egg whites heated and beaten together for seven minutes to form a soft fluffy, marshmallowy icing that turns any cake into a special occasion masterpiece. 

iced birthday cake with seven minute frosting

Cooking with Meredith and Lara

Two weeks ago my little sous chef kitchen buddy had a birthday – she turned ten! To celebrate we had to bake a birthday cake, of course.

Meredith blowing out the candles, seven minute frosting

Meredith invited her friend Lara over, and the three of us had a birthday baking spree and our own little party. The girls measured, stirred, and sneaked fingers of cake batter.

measuring for the cake with seven minute frosting

They folded, whipped, and poured, then sneaked more batter.

cleaning the beaters for the birthday cake with seven minute frosting In between, they invented some crazy dance moves.

Then they made icing. They measured and separated eggs and whipped it up with the beaters, all the while sneaking more fingerfuls of fluffy icing.

Icing on the Cake, Seven Minute Frosting

seven minute frosting swirling the seven minute frosting

They finished off by smoothing and spreading and swirling the icing on the cake, licking fingers, spoons, bowls, and beaters.

sprinkling toffee bits on the seven minute frosting candles on the cake, seven minute frosting

It’s a tough job. Takes a high level of snitching skills.

licking the seven minute frosting off the beaters enjoying the seven minute frosting

The icing we made is the classic Seven Minute Frosting – the one my mom made for all our birthday cakes when my sisters and I were growing up. It brings back such fluffy, gooey, sweet memories for me. This lovely icing is basically a soft, billowy meringue, smooth as silk and not tooth-achingly sweet. I’m sure the reason it was a family staple is because it’s mainly made from egg whites and sugar – basic ingredients we always had in the house on the farm. The recipe comes from mom’s old Fannie Farmer cookbook, and the traditional version is a light, snowy-white icing that swirls easily into kiss-curl drifts on the cake.

three layer cake with seven minute frosting

Meredith chose the caramel variation, so we substituted one cup of the granulated sugar with brown sugar. We made one and a half times the  recipe for our three layer cake. Once the girls iced it, those layers became a majestic tower of creamy caramel swirls, with toffee bits added between the layers and showered over the top.

She was a very happy birthday girl – the cake turned out just as she’d dreamed it.

lighting the birthday candles, seven minute frosting

The beauty of this frosting is that it takes less than ten minutes to make – one minute to measure and seven minutes to beat. How’s that for easy? Plus it’s gluten free and dairy free, too. If you haven’t tried this simple and luscious old-fashioned frosting yet, you might be really surprised at how light it is – a refreshing change from some of the heavier frostings often used today.

A lovely frosted cake would also look fantastic with the homemade sprinkles we made for Meredith’s birthday last year.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Note: Before frosting the cake, lay four strips of wax or parchment paper underneath it, overlapping each other around the four sides, to catch the overflow of frosting. Then when you’re finished frosting the cake, gently pull out the strips, and dab any loosened icing back into place with the tip of a butter knife. You’ll have a nice clean cake plate with no messy edges.

Seven Minute Frosting is best used on the day it is made, as it dries up and forms a crust on the outside if stored for longer (still tastes good, though).

spreading the seven minute frosting

Seven Minute Frosting

  • 1½ cups (300gms) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup (60ml) water
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Caramel Seven Minute Frosting: reduce vanilla to ½ teaspoon and substitute 1 cup dark-brown sugar for 1 cup of the white sugar

Pour about ½ inch (1.5cm) of water into a medium sized saucepan. Bring it to a simmer. Mix the sugar, cream of tartar, salt, egg whites, and water in a metal or heatproof glass bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water. Beat steadily with an electric hand mixer on high speed for seven minutes. The frosting should be light and fluffy and stand in stiff peaks when you lift up the beater.

Remove the bowl from the heat and continue beating until the frosting is thick enough to spread.

This frosting is best when served within a few hours of making it.

Enough to fill and frost an 8 or 9 inch (20-23cm) two-layer cake.

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

See what else we’ve been having fun with in our ‘Cooking with Kids’ section!

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Posted in Cakes, Cookies & Candy, Cooking with Kids, Dairy-free | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sicilian Almond Cookies and People-Watching in Italy

We discovered these Sicilian Almond Cookies while on holiday in Italy this fall. They are the perfect chewy, nutty, not-too-sweet treat to nibble with your coffee or hot chocolate, or whenever you need a break.

cup of tea and a Sicilian Almond Cookie

Come, make yourself a cup of coffee or a thick, creamy Italian Hot Chocolate, grab a couple of these nutty, soft, chewy Sicilian almond cookies, and let’s go do some people-watching. It’s my favourite thing to do on holidays, and there’s a chair over there at that outdoor cafe that would be perfect . . . .

Sicilian Almond Cookies, Buskers in Rome

watching buskers in Rome. don’t you just want to clap along?

Sicilian Almond Cookies, afternoon stroll in Rome

we’ve got lots of company along the Via del Corso

Sicilian Almond Cookies

a little opera in front of the Pantheon

Sicilian Almond Cookies

buy a paper cone of hot, freshly roasted chestnuts from vendors at any street corner in Rome

A country’s people are its living heartbeat, and Italy has a large beating heart full of warm and wonderful people (with a few interesting characters thrown in to add some spice).

Sicilian Almond Cookies, pizza at Rosciolo's in Rome

pizza with a smile (Roscioli’s in Rome)

Naples is another great place to people watch. Everyone and their dog scoots around on motorbikes. You can see whole families crowded onto one bike, heading to church on Sunday.

Sicilian Almond Cookies

going doggie-style

This little old lady is a sharp business woman. When I asked if I could take her picture, she rubbed her thumb and fingers together, indicating money. Once I gave her a euro, she ‘happily’ posed for me.

Sicilian Almond Cookies

a smile costs extra

Sicilian almond cookies, carriage driver in Sorrento

we could take a carriage ride in Sorrento . . .

Let’s go driving a little way down the Amalfi Coast.

Sicilian Almond Cookies, people watcher in Positano

a fellow people-watcher in Positano

Sicilian Almond Cookies, biking along the Amalfi coast

when a big tour bus tries to get through a tunnel . . . Amalfi coast

Sicilian Almond Cookies, men chatting in Alberobello

sharing the morning news

How is your Sicilian Almond Cookie?

Sicilian Almond Cookie and teacup

Here, have another one, and then we’ll head off to Sicily to do a little more people watching. We’ll pick up a few more cookies at this bakery in Cefalù.

bakery window full of Sicilian Almond Cookies

they’ve got all kinds: some with cherries in the dough, some plain, and the rest rolled in a variety of nuts or seeds

Sicilian Almond Cookies and a glass of wine

we enjoyed a few Sicilian Almond Cookies with vino on our rooftop balcony at the seaside Dolce Vita bed and breakfast in Cefalu – what a view

Sicilian Almond Cookies, drive-by chatting in Sicily

a little drive-by chatting

Sicilian almond cookies, chef's selection of fresh fish, Cefalu, Sicily

here’s our fresh catch of the day. which ones would you like me to prepare for your dinner?

Sicilian Almond Cookies, ceramic artist in Caltagirone

ceramic artist in Caltagirone

Sicilian almond cookies, cutting cactus fruit in Modica

here, let me cut open this cactus fruit so you can eat it right away

Sicilian Almond Cookies, 3 wheel truck driver in Noto

this fellow in Noto was proud to tell us he’d had his truck for 43 years

Sicilian Almond Cookies

people-watching the people-watchers, in Noto

This toothless Casanova in the Catania Fish Market wore a basil sprig over his ear and tried to entice the ladies by offering them a fresh shrimp to taste. When he got no takers, he twisted the head off the shrimp and ate the whole thing, shell and all. The ladies were duly impressed.

Sicilian Almond Cookies, Casanova in the Catania Fish Market

come in sweet lady, just try one

Even fishermen need to call their wives.

Sicilian Almond Cookies, fishermen at the Catania Fish Market on their cell phones

honey, I’ll be a bit late coming home. the market is hopping today

Sicilian Almond Cookies, herb sellers in Catania Fish Market

there was a whole crew of young gentlemen walking through the market selling bundles of fresh herbs

Sicilian Almond Cookies, Octopus for sale

fresh octopus! come and get your fresh octopus!

And everywhere in Italy, there are benches full of old men sitting in the town squares, solving the world’s problems.

Sicilian Almond Cookies, men talking in Alberobello

Alberobello

Sicilian Almond Cookies, Men talking in Caltagirone

Caltagirone

Well, maybe one woman . . .

Sicilian Almond Cookies, men talking in Taormina

Taormina

And where are the rest of the women?

Sicilian Almond Cookies, woman sweeping in Alberobello

Wanna meet me again tomorrow for some more people watching and a cookie or two?

Come let’s bake ourselves a batch. They’re so soft and chewy inside and crunchy on the outside – not too sweet, but deliciously nutty with a hint of lemon mingling with the delicate almond flavour.

Sicilian Almond Cookies with moscato wine

try Sicilian Almond Cookies with a sweet moscato wine or a vin santo

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau notes: The original recipe only uses sugar. I subbed in a bit of honey as it helps keep the cookies softer. The batter is very soft, but if you wash your hands whenever they get sticky, it is easy to roll the balls.

You can also roll the cookies in icing sugar and press a nut or candied cherry into the top, before baking, instead of rolling them in nuts.

Sicilian Almond Cookies on Plate

 

Sicilian Almond Cookies (Pasticcini di mandorle)

gluten free, dairy free

adapted from the souvenir book of ‘Sicilian Cuisine, recipes flavours festivals’, published by Edizione Affinità Elettive

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (110gms) sugar
  • ¼ cup (85gms) honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from about one small lemon)
  • 2½ cups (250gms) ground blanched almonds/almond flour
  • About 1½ cups pine nuts, slivered almonds, chopped pistachios, whole pistachios, hazelnuts, or almonds

Whip egg whites with salt until foamy. Add sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Beat in honey, vanilla, and lemon zest.

Stir in ground almonds. The whites will deflate, but that’s okay. (The reason for beating them was to dissolve the sugar in them.)

Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

Roll the cookie batter into 1¼ inch (3cm) balls. The batter will be very soft and somewhat sticky. To keep the batter from sticking to your hands as you make the balls, have a small bowl of water beside you. Between rolling each cookie, dip a finger into the water, then wipe your palm with your wet finger to keep your palms slightly moist.

Roll the cookie balls in your choice of nuts, pressing the nuts into the cookies as much as possible to make them stick.

Place the cookies onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets, and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 24 cookies.

*These cookies freeze well or keep for several weeks at room temperature in a sealed container, longer if refrigerated (get a head start on your Christmas baking).

Buon Appetito!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

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Chicken Breasts in Orange Sauce and a Cooking Class in Rome

Whether for a quick and easy weeknight family dinner or elegant entertaining, you’ll be impressed with these light and tasty Chicken Breasts in Orange Sauce. Just 4 ingredients and 20 minutes to a fantastic meal. The recipe comes direct to you from the cooking class I took in Rome.

chicken breasts in orange sauce

On our first day in Rome, I took a cooking class. It wasn’t meant to be scheduled like that, but since we’d booked our trip only three weeks before leaving, that date was the only opening left and I grabbed it.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. We decided to walk to the class, since Google Maps said it should only take 45 minutes, and what better way to get our bearings and a close-up view to the city, right?

As we speed-walked past monuments, cafes, and one beautiful old building after another, we tried not to stop and gawk too often. I was sweating and kept removing layers as we marched. We needed to cross the river into Trastevere, and I remember at one point rushing past a massive and stunning white building with winged bronze horses atop its towers, thinking this must be an important landmark, but no time to stop.

Vittorio Emanuele II monument in rome

We only found out on our last days in Rome that it was actually the Vittorio Emanuele II monument in the Piazza Venezia. We had rushed right through Rome’s spectacular main piazza and not even realized it – so intent were we on following our map and getting to class on time!

Vittorio Emaneule II Monument, Rome Vittorio Emanuele II monument, Rome

Once we got there, Raymond left to do some exploring on his own (one of these days I’ll get him to take a cooking class with me) and I entered the doors to the Cooking Classes in Rome building.

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Ah, what an oasis. The street noises outside disappeared and happy music played. I took one of the last chairs at a long table set with drinks and pastries for us to nibble on. Chef Andrea Consoli welcomed us and we introduced ourselves to each other – 12 eager cooks from all over the world.

We had a fantastic day!

We tied on our aprons and trooped into the cozy kitchen at the back of the room. Chef Andrea had set out all the fabulous produce for our day of cooking, which he’d purchased at the market that morning.

chicken breasts in orange sauce - cooking class ingredients beautifully laid out

look at those colours – a living still life

He explained the menu for the day.

cooking class menu, chicken breasts in orange sauce

Chef Andrea said he teaches local and seasonal dishes, and always likes to include one course that is quick and easy to replicate at home for a family weeknight dinner. Well, this Chicken Breasts in Orange Sauce is that kind of a hit. Takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and tastes fantastic, light and bright with fresh orange flavour, so I knew I had to share it with you. Doesn’t it look delicious?

our finished chicken brests in orange sauce

Chef Andrea prepared a light green salad to serve with the Petto di Pollo all’arancia we’d prepared in class

Citrus fruits are in season right now in Italy. The air around markets is perfumed with their fresh scent. We saw orange and lemon trees everywhere, tucked into small back yards, in parks, and in vast orderly groves all over southern Italy and Sicily. (In Sicily we stayed one night in a beautiful old stone farmhouse converted to a bed and breakfast, right in the middle of a lemon grove.)

fresh produce at market stand in Sorrento, chicken breasts in orange sauce

small market stand in Sorrento, citrus fruits, nuts, and mushrooms were abundant at this time of year

Orange grove right in the middle of Sorrento, Italy

I Giardini di Cataldo – a small citrus grove right in the middle of Sorrento

Chef Andrea was the most fun cooking class teacher I’ve had (and I’ve taken cooking classes in quite a few different cities). He was hilarious, always joking and laughing, but completely efficient and organized, keeping all 12 of us busy the whole time: chopping, washing, kneading, rolling, cooking, and stirring. And throughout class, he regaled us with useful tidbits of information about the history of the area, history of the dishes we were preparing, Roman and Italian food in general, and fun facts about cooking and food. He has years of experience cooking in restaurants, and now puts those talents to use teaching us ordinary folk how to make some fantastic Italian dishes. If you have a chance to go to Rome and take a cooking class, I highly recommend a day in his kitchen.

We prepared stuffed zucchini blossoms for the antipasto course. Chef Andrea showed us how to gently remove the stamen in the blossom, then fill the center with a piece of fresh mozzarella wrapped in either proscuitto or thinly sliced eggplant (anchovy is traditional, but we had a class member allergic to fish).

chicken breast with orange sauce, Chef Andrea showing us how to remove the zucchini blossom stamen

you must be very gentle when you remove the stamen

chicken breast in orange sauce, stuffed zucchini blossoms ready for frying

The stuffed blossoms were then battered and deep fried. He put a couple other students to work making the southern Italian style fresh tomato and walnut pesto served with the fried zucchini blossoms.

chicken breasts in orange sauce, chef Andrea frying the zucchini blossoms chicken breasts in orange sauce, fried zucchini blossoms ready to serve

stuffed zucchini blossom with fresh tomato and walnut pesto

fried stuffed zucchini blossom with southern style fresh tomato walnut pesto

For the first course (primo), which is usually a pasta, risotto, or other carbohydrate-based course, we made homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, served in a light tomato sauce made with the last of the local San Marzano tomatoes. Everyone had a blast making and rolling the pasta dough, as Chef Andrea utilized the muscle of the two male students in class and encouraged them to ‘make love to the dough’. Much laughter.

chicken breasts in orange sauce, making pasta dough for cooking class chicken breasts in orange sauce, kneading pasta dough for ravioli All hands on deck.

chicken breasts in orange sauce, cooking class, making ravioli

chicken breasts in orange sauce, group effort making ravioli chicken breasts in orange sauce, rolling out long pasta dough for ravioli

chicken breasts in orange sauce, cooking class in Rome, homemade ravioli

For the lovely dessert finale, we prepared a lemon-infused custard topped with macerated kiwi fruit, which I was surprised to find is an abundant local crop. (Chef Andrea told us that 80% of the kiwi fruit sold in Europe is grown right in the province of Lazio around Rome.)

Chef surprised us with decorated personal plates for the dessert.

chicken breasts in orange sauce, cooking class in Rome, lemon custard with kiwi

We all sat down to dinner together to enjoy the fantastic meal we’d prepared, complete with matching wines for each course.

Cooking Class in Rome, ready to enjoy the fruits of our labours

ready to enjoy the fruits of our labour

after the wonderful four course meal, cooked by us, and served by Chef Andrea. we felt pretty spoiled

after the wonderful four course meal, cooked by us, and served by Chef Andrea. we felt pretty spoiled

I love learning about the culture of a place by exploring its food and how it is traditionally prepared. The cuisine of a region is shaped by its history, geography, and climate, and learning about it connects me on a closer level to the place and the daily lives of the people. This cooking class day was a highlight for me. Whenever I prepare one of the recipes we cooked in class, I’ll be instantly transported back to that fun-filled Italian kitchen with a bunch of kindred foodie spirits and the irrepressibly warm and entertaining Chef Andrea, who bound us all together through a wonderful shared day and shared meal of delicious Roman home-cooked cuisine.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I adapted Chef Andrea’s recipe only slightly, adding a pinch of white pepper, and finding I needed an extra orange (he suggested 3 oranges), maybe because our oranges aren’t as fresh and juicy here in Canada.

Make sure your knife is very sharp for slicing the chicken breasts, or slice them when partially frozen, or have your butcher slice them for you.

The orange juice looses much of its flavour when reheated, so if you’re reheating any leftovers of this dish, squeeze on additional fresh orange juice.

The variety of orange you use will determine the intensity of the colour of your sauce. Some oranges produce a more orange sauce than others.

To prepare Chicken Breasts in Orange Sauce for entertaining: Flour and sauté the chicken breast slices several hours ahead and keep them in a dish on the counter at room temperature. Squeeze the orange juice ahead. Then shortly before serving, place the sautéed chicken slices in a large skillet, add the salt, pepper, and orange juice, and cook over medium high heat for several minutes, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened to your liking. Serve immediately.

platter of chicken breasts in orange sauce

 

Chicken Breasts in Orange Sauce (Petto di Pollo all’arancia)

Recipe slightly adapted from Chef Andrea at Cooking Classes in Rome

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. sliced thinly
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 freshly squeezed organic oranges, depending on their size (1½ -2 cups/360-480mls juice)
  • ½ cup (70gms) all purpose flour (or sweet rice flour for gluten free)
  • salt and white pepper to taste (white pepper optional)

Slice the chicken fillets or cutlets, about 1/4 inch thick. This works best if you have a very sharp knife. If not, it’s easier to slice them if they are partially frozen. Or you can have your butcher slice them for you.

Heat up a heavy-bottomed, wide skillet with the extra virgin olive oil, over medium-high heat. Roll the chicken slices in the flour, coating all sides. (Discard the leftover flour.) Then fry the floured chicken slices in the saucepan in batches, until seared and pale golden in colour. A splatter screen is helpful to keep your stovetop cleaner. Set each batch of fried chicken slices to the side as they are finished.

Return all the cooked chicken slices to the skillet, and season them with salt and a pinch of white pepper. (I use about ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon white pepper). Add the freshly squeezed juice from three oranges, along with whatever pulp is in the juice.

Cook and stir the chicken and orange juice continuously over medium heat for several minutes until the sauce becomes thickened, smooth, and creamy. If the sauce is too thin, cook it a few minutes longer. If it is too thick, add the juice of the fourth orange and cook a few seconds longer. Serve the chicken slices  on a nicely decorated plate. Pour over the sauce from the skillet, using a spatula to get every tasty bit out, and serve it hot.

Serves 4 very generously.

Chef Andrea’s Wine Pairing: Frascati Superiore DOC – it comes from the Frascati DOC zone of the Municipality of Rome and it’s produced with 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio and 20% Trebbiano. Has a delicate nose with moderate fruit and blossom. The palate is dry, fresh, elegant and appealing. It is produced by the local Winery Principe Pallavicini – Colonna (Lazio region) – ed. 2014

Corresponding North American Wine Pairing (by a sommelier friend): Malvasia Bianca 2011 from Kenneth Volk Vineyards in Monterey, California. This wine has both floral and tropical fruit aromas with flavors of pear nectar and citrus fruits, making it rich without being heavy and presenting a clean, dry finish. The exotic floral and tropical fruit aromas in this malvasia stand up well to the acidity of the citrus notes in the dish.

Buon Appetito!

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kitchen at Cooking Classes in Rome

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