I like to cook, though I don't have much time to focus on it. I usually have one or two dishes that I'm working on, and since Jim Carson has been putting recipes on his blog, I figured I'd do one on mine as well. This one is pretty good if you use fresh ingredients.

Mediterranean Medley

Quantities are estimates, as I don't typically measure any of this.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces good pasta.
    I like Barilla, which is good without being too expensive. Something small and chunky, like rotini, radiatore, route, or farfalle. Last time I used the red/green/white version.
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 4 slices proscuitto
    Domestic is cheaper, and works well. Proscuitto de Parma is wonderful, but a bit pricier. Don't get freaked out by the $15/pound price - you're only using 4 very thin slices.
  • 20 medium-sized white mushrooms
  • 1/2 jar roasted red bell peppers
    you can do this yourself, but it takes a gas flame (or a grill), and isn't really worth the effort. You can't get the right flavor from fresh red bell peppers.
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 roma tomatos
  • 20 greek olives
    You need real olives for this, the american black olive won't really work. I like kalamata olives, and sometimes I get the mixture instead.
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 8 large leaves of fresh basil
    You can omit this if you must, but it helps the dish a fair bit.

Directions:

  • Fill your pasta pot with water, and put it onto boil.
  • Slice the chicken breast into cubes of about 1 cm on a side. Spread out on a plate and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt. Mix so the salt is distributed evenly. This draws some fluid out of the chicken, which will then carmelize when you fry it.
  • Either wash your cutting board and knife or switch to a different one, to avoid those raw chicken nasties.
  • Stack up your proscuitto, and cut lengthwise into 1/4" strips. Put them together, and cut those so that you have little 1/4" square pieces of proscuitto. Set aside.
  • Dice the mushrooms, peppers, onions, and tomatos. I try to get them to the "uniform but still recognizable" stage, something around 3/8" max on a side.
  • Pit the olives (you *do* have an olive pitter, don't you?), and chop them. I don't go for much uniformity here - I like big chunks and small chunks, but you can do as you wish. Make sure they aren't whole, as their flavors won't mix as well.
  • Either put the garlic in your garlic press (the Zyliss Susi is the best), or chop and smash it really fine.
  • Stack the basil leaves on top of each other, slice them lengthwise into quarters, and roll them together and slice them into 1 cm strips. (If you didn't slice them lengthwise first, this would be a "chiffonade", but I think those strips are too long for this dish)
  • Okay, so now you're done with all the chopping, and like stir fry, that's where all the work is in this dish. Presumably along the way your pasta water boiled and you added the past with it. It will usually take about 7 or 8 minutes to finish the meal, so you'll want to make sure you get your pasta al dente at a reasonable time. The dish will hold for 4 or 5 minutes if you need to wait for the pasta.
  • Heat a 10" nonstick skillet over high heat. You want to get it pretty hot, but not "smokin hot". You may want to add a bit of cooking oil, but it will increase the mess slightly. Add the chicken. Your goal is to let the chicken sit on each face for a little while so that it will carmelize a bit, but make sure you give a stir every minute or so. I like to do the "toss move" where you tilt the pan down, slide the food to one end, get it to flip off the curved edge of the pan, and then catch it, because it gives you better mixing, but you may stir if you want. After you don't see any more raw chicken edges, try pushing your wooden spoon or spatula through a large piece - if it's cooked through, pull it off, and put the chicken on a plate. Return the empty pan to the heat.
  • Add the proscuitto to the pan. No oil will be needed. You're trying to get a little crispness on the proscuitto, both to improve the flavor, and to break the pieces apart (Proscuitto de Parma is stickier than most domestic versions). This should only take a minute or two. You don't want all of it to look "bacon crisp", but it's good if some of it does. Put the cooked proscuitto on the same plate as the chicken. If you have young kids, you might want to pull some of the chicken off so it doesn't get all "yucky" when you finish the dish.
  • Return the dish to the heat, and add a little olive oil. Don't scrape off the proscuitto parts that are left in the pan - that's the good stuff. Reduce heat to med-high. Add in the mushrooms, peppers, onion, and tomato. This is a pretty big amount for a 10" pan, so you'll need to keep it moving to keep it cooking well. Toss only if you're confident, or perhaps if you have a dog waiting for scraps. Cook about 4 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender but not too tender (the mushroom equivalent of al dente for pasta). Somewhere in this time period, you should add the garlic. Add it early if you want it to be somewhat muted, later if you want it to be brighter (I add it later). Make sure you get it mixed well into the dish. You'll start to accumulate a little liquid - that's a good thing.
  • Add the chicken and proscuitto back to the dish, and mix. Cook until heated. I do "the toss" here, but it's getting pretty heavy.
  • Remove from heat, add the basil, and mix.
  • Spoon over cooked pasta. You can decorate with some basil leaves if you'd like.
  • Serve with a nice rustic Italian bread.

Serves 2-3