Italian Chicken, Eggplant and Zucchini

I’ve dreamt about opening my own restaurant for over ten years now. I’ve wanted it to be a tiny little place that I would open later in life, when I already have a steady retirement paycheck and no desire to make it a “career”. I’ve always imagined that the fare would be a mix of American, Latin American, Italian and Asian cuisine – basically the 10 best dishes that I have made over my lifetime. After making the jump to gluten-free/Paleo, I’ve been feeling like my restaurant dreams are far-fetched: how could I make American food without potato, Latin American food without tortillas, Italian without pasta, or Asian without rice? Last night I sat down and put together a dish that made me think that I just might be able to start a Paleo-friendly restaurant someday – while fooling the non-Paleos (let’s just call them “muggles”) into liking it.

the lineup #1: one large eggplant, two medium zucchini, 4 cloves of garlic (crushed), 3 tbsp butter, a bunch olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt. For later: 1 cup freshly grated mix of hard cheeses (parmesan, romano, asiago do nicely)

Peel the eggplant, and sprinkle the sea salt evenly on it and leave it in a colander for 30 minutes. Some liquid will seep out of it, rinse the liquid and the salt off (this process makes the eggplant less bitter). Dice/cube the zucchini. Lay everything on a baking sheet that’s been drizzled with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter and add the garlic to it, then spoon the mixture evenly over the veggies. Drizzle olive oil over everything again and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the oven up to 400 degrees and sprinkle the cheese over everything, drizzling with more olive oil if the veggies look dry. I cut the asiago cheese into slices and placed a small slice onto each slice of eggplant, but that wasn’t totally necessary. Return to oven.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then broil for two minutes or so to crisp the cheese.

the lineup #2: 1 jar spaghetti sauce (we prefer Classico if we’re going to use pre-made sauce), five chicken breasts, 10-15 fresh basil leaves, 3 tsp coconut oil, 2 cloves of garlic (crushed), 1 tsp dry oregano

While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the red sauce. While warming the spaghetti sauce on med/low heat, cut the chicken into small cubes.

The trick to cooking chicken breasts without having all the water seep out is to cook the pieces on a pre-heated pan on a fairly high heat, and to stir them fairly constantly until the last 30 seconds so the pieces can brown and crisp. Heat a pan on mostly-high heat (90%) and add the coconut oil and the garlic. Right when the garlic starts to brown (should only take a second), add the chicken, oregano and some salt/pepper to taste. Saute until fully cooked, and with any luck the juices were locked inside. Add the cooked chicken and basil leaves to the red sauce – there should be more chicken than sauce, so the whole thing should have the consistency of salsa.

Using a spatula, scrape up the veggies and lay them in a pasta dish, and lay a few scoops of the red sauce on top. Sprinkle with more cheese on top if you’d like (I didn’t because I was afraid it’d be overkill).

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