Symon Says Chicken Goes Perfect with Olives and Orange

This recipe came out of a five ingredient cookbook by Michael Symon that I got out of the local library many months ago. The combination of olives, tomatoes and orange is very Mediterranean and a tummy warming bundle of yummy flavors. Don’t leave any of those three ingredients out; they are crucial to a great result. olivesYou gotta love how short the list of stuff to buy is. Well, this dish actually uses eight items but olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes are three staples I (and most cooks) keep in the house all the time. So it is five, sort of! I had everything on hand but the chicken so I was in business after a stop for some high quality chicken thighs.

Chicken is a regular protein choice for dinner at my house, inexpensive, easy to make and it takes on the flavor of whatever you put it with. The thighs are my favorite chicken part as they stay moist and have a bit more flavor than breasts. Canned chopped tomatoes have great tomato flavor and are so convenient as well as pretty inexpensive.

navel oranges

I used a bit less olive oil than the original recipe – seemed like half of the quarter cup was quite enough. I have made this about 3 times in the past year. I believe the original recipe was made with boneless chicken thighs but I prefer them bone in. If you like boneless; cook it five minutes less. I stuck a thigh with my instant read thermometer and knew the poultry was done. Totally takes the guess work out.

This recipe is a keeper: it meets my criteria of inexpensive, quick to put together, gluten free and great tasting. That’s the quartet of food greatness in my recipe world. And that is why I am sharing it with you today!

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Symon Says Chicken with Orange and Olives


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 chicken thighs (if small; 5-6)
2 sliced garlic cloves
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
Grated zest and juice of one fresh navel orange
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped Kalamata olives (I opened a can of regular black ones and cut them up roughly – in half is fine)

In a dutch oven heat the oil, add the chicken, skin side down, cook 8 minutes, turn using a pair of tongs, cook 8 more minutes. Add olives and rosemary; cook one minute. Add a half cup of water to de-glaze the pan and then add the rest of the ingredients. I like to hold half the olives and add them at the end, especially if you use the canned black olives which are softer than kalamata olives. Cook 20 minutes, test for doneness and add 5 more minutes if needed.

I served my chicken over a baked red potato, cut open and sliced somewhat. With a simple green salad you have a super supper. There is very little active time spent making this; but you can’t leave it alone for more than 8 minutes while each side browns. Still, dishes can be done, kitchen tidied or other chores completed while the chicken thighs brown. The dish goes together in just a few minutes of chopping garlic and olives. In a rush I have been known to tip the olives into a measuring cup and just cut with a paring knife stuck in the cup to roughly chop the olives.

It is also nice with pasta; gluten free ziti comes to mind. Even rice would be great with this flavorful and naturally gluten free main dish.

Summer Tomato Soup’s On!

Summer is tomato time around here.  I had tomato salad the other day, a big tomato sandwich Thursday and for lunch I am having homemade tomato soup, made it yesterday.  Last October I made a big batch and froze it in plastic containers, each two servings.  I felt like I was back in summer whenever I had it for lunch last winter. I am freezing lots of it this summer; here are about 9 servings about to go in my big freezer for winter lunches.

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So make some, it is Ina Garten’s recipe simplified a tad.  If you don’t like it creamy leave out the cream or use half and half or whole milk for less calories.  If you are a vegetarian use veggie broth instead of chicken broth.  You can strain it but I prefer it unstrained and chunky. It has a fair amount of garlic which you can reduce as wished.  I cut back on the salt but you can cut it even further as you wish.

Your family will love this soup with a sandwich or salad. It is naturally gluten free.  GF croutons would bring a lovely crunch to it if you have any.

tomato soup

Messy rim but yummy soup!

Cream of Tomato Soup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red or yellow onions (2 onions)
2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (5-6 large)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves

3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

Add the cream to the soup and process it by blending with an immersion blender or run it through your food processor. I use my cute little boat motor blender and leave it chunky just as I love soup to be. Reheat the soup over low heat just until hot and serve plain or with julienned basil leaves and/or GF croutons.

Read more at:  Originally published August 2014, modified for this post.

Refreshing Spanish Gazpacho Soup: Ole Tomatoes!

Hot Hot HOT summer days mean I need a cool recipe. One with minimal cooking: that is easy and tasty.  Plus I want to use some of my garden produce.  This classic Spanish soup called gazpacho is perfect for all of that and my family loves it. It absolutely must be made with ripe summer tomatoes, never ever attempt it with any less than the best vine ripened fruit.  You can get great tomatoes at farm stands, farmer’s markets and even the grocery store; look for the grown local label for the best flavored tomatoes. Please do not use greenhouse tomatoes grown far away and shipped while not really ripe. Your soup will not be full of tomato flavor and it will taste disappointing.  These ripe locally grown tomatoes are vital to the flavor of gazpacho.

I make my gazpacho in the blender but I believe a food processor works okay too.  No heat,  minimal fuss.

My version allows you to add chopped raw veggies in the amount you prefer just before you slurp it down. I prefer its fresh pure flavors to those soulless restaurant versions that are gelatinous and crammed full of a wide assortment of chunked veggies…uggh.

I once had a version of gazpacho similar to mine in a Philadelphia restaurant made with golden yellow tomatoes which was beautiful looking and quite tasty too.

Warning: you do need to peel the tomatoes but that goes pretty fast.  I heat about a wide sauce pan filled 3 inches deep with water to a boil and pop the ripe tomatoes in for 2 to 3 minutes. I put in 4 at a time; done in a couple batches.  Let them cool a bit and then peel off the skin and cut out the blossom end (top) and they are ready to use.

One more important instruction: gazpacho HAS to chill really good; make it early in the morning to serve as a late lunch or better yet; for supper. The colder the better, I actually put my soup bowls in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes and yank them out just before filling and serving this cold summer delight.

It is a flexible recipe; depends on the size of your tomatoes. This should make close to 60 ounces or just shy of 2 quarts; cut in half if you don’t want too much. But you will wish you had made more…I promise!  It will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

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tomato juice for thinning the soup

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skinned tomatoes ready for soup making

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I am about to press the puree button!

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Still in blender, just pureed soup.

Summer Chill Gazpacho

Soup ingredients:

8 to 10 ripe fat tomatoes (large ones)

About ¼ cup EVOL; best you can afford

2 slices white bread (GF if you have celiac)

1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 to 1 ½ tsp. sea salt


2 large tomatoes diced, heirloom if possible

1 cup diced burpless cucumber

2 scallions, sliced thin, green and white parts

Directions: peel the tomatoes as described above.  When I peel them I do it over a bowl to capture the juices and seeds. I save them, strain off the seeds and I add back the juice as needed to thin the finished soup.    Put 4-5 tomatoes in the blender; add a slice of bread broken up, 2 tbsp. olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and one garlic clove.  Put the lid on and blend well.  Note: do not fill the blender more then ¾ full. Taste; add salt; ½ to ¾ tsp.

Repeat entire process with the rest of the ingredients and thin with reserved tomato juice – it should be thick but not porridge thick.  Mix the two batches together in a big glass bowl; never metal because of the acidity of tomatoes and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Then chill it at least 3 to 4 hours.

Serve with bowls of toppings to sprinkle on top of the thick soup; diced ripe tomatoes, scallion slices and cucumber ( preferably burpless) cut in small dice.  If you want to guild the lily, top with croutons (gf ones if you have celiac), I don’t bother.

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Note: gluten free bread often gives a slightly different texture to the soup; somewhat less smooth in the look of it and the taste.  It’s okay as it doesn’t affect the flavor: it still is delicious and a bowl of it is so very refreshing on a hot day.  Serve with a sandwich and you have a perfect summer lunch.

Winter Tummy Warmer: Italian Lentil Stew

Okay, I have one more yummy soup recipe for these cold winter days.  I took a basic Italian lentil soup and kicked it up a bit with some changes and additions.  My daughter loves the Italian sausage in it and I love kale added to the mix.  Increases the nutritional value and the flavor.  I also like how easily it goes together.  Lentils are very earthy and very good for you. I have to say that my daughter loves this recipe; I made it because she was talking about it last week. Perfect to enjoy during this frigid weather.

If you hate kale leave it out; fresh baby spinach might be tasty too in it.  I like my kale fresh when making stews and I usually cut off any tough stems.  This recipe is naturally gluten free.  Do be careful about the broth you use.  Make sure it is labeled gluten free.


It could be made vegetarian; use vegetable broth and leave out the sausage.  I don’t always have the parm cheese on it but it is very tasty with it.

Lentil and Sausage Soup


¼ cup EVOL

1 cup diced yellow onion

2 large carrots diced

1-2 garlic cloves minced

1 can diced tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste dissolved in ½ cup water

2 cups dried brown lentils, washed after measuring

1-2 quarts chicken broth, I prefer Kitchen Basics

1 lb Italian sausage

1 lb fresh or frozen kale.  Fresh is best; chop it up but frozen will do

½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, optional (for topping)

2 tbsp chopped parsley; can leave out if adding kale.



Sauté the onion and carrots in the olive oil in a big heavy bottomed soup pot.  I use a heavy bottom as your soup will be less likely to burn.  Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sausage; push the onions to the pan’s walls so they don’t burn.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Add the garlic as you are turning or stirring .

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Add tomatoes and stir up well, add the tomato paste in water and cook 10 minutes.  Add broth and season with salt and pepper; remove sausage to a plate to cool. Bring the soup back to a boil and then add lentils.

yogurt and apple crisp 021 Cook about 45 minutes to 50 until lentils are done to your taste.  Stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

Add the kale and cook 5-7 minutes then add back the sausage.  While the lentils are cooking you should cut up the sausage into rounds and add them to the stew when the lentils are done.    Let the soup stand at least 15-20 minutes once it is done.

Serve in a wide soup bowl with a good sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese on top.  Perfect on a cold winter night to warm you up from  your tummy to your toes!

I only made a half batch this time as that was all the lentils in the house. We ate it all up before realizing I had forgotten to take a picture of a bowl of hot soup, ready to dive my spoon into it’s tasty depths.  Next batch!

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets Eggplant Fest Continues!

Spaghetti is an American classic.  I don’t make it often enough, especially since going gluten free.  That may change since I started to read Mario Batali’s newest cookbook “America Farm to Table”.  I cooked up a storm this past weekend making his eggplant and angel hair turrets.  What’s a turret?  A tower of yumminess!

farm to table cookbook

Having a surfeit of eggplants I was diving into all my eggplant recipes to determine the best way to utilize my crop of purple beauties. This one is a winner!


We devoured it by candlelight on my back porch Saturday night, bees wax candles to be exact.  I thought for a moment that my man was going to lick his dinner plate! It was rewarding to see him so enraptured by my cooking.  I served it with a side of Italian sausage but it does stand alone as a complete entree.  We had a greens and tomato salad to complete this wonderful meal.

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I took this picture by candlelight!

I made a few changes so this is an adaptation of the recipe.  I advise reading it through twice so you don’t screw it up! I used less red pepper flakes than the original recipe; up it to a tsp. if you dare!  Yes, it uses instant potato flakes and they work fantastically to coat the eggplant slices.  Don’t be squeamish about the anchovies; they totally disappear into this spicy but lush sauce that coats the pasta and provides a base for the tower.   I used tomato sauce I had made the night before from the last fresh tomatoes as the base to build this extra spicy sauce which can hold its own with the eggplant headliner.  This recipe serves 4.

Eggplant and Pasta Turrets

4 tbsp. EVOL (Extra virgin olive oil)

2 large eggs

1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 large eggplant or 2 medium ones

½ cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 oil packed anchovy fillets plus 1 tbsp. of the packing oil

1 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed by hand plus all the can juice or your own homemade tomato sauce, unseasoned

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1  12 oz package gf spaghetti

½ cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves

Eggplant: Place the eggs in a wide shallow bowl, beat well.  Put the potato flakes into a second shallow bowl or a wax paper covered plate.  Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices.  Dip into the eggs, let excess drip off and dredge in the potato flakes.

Heat a large Teflon pan, add 2 tbsp EVOL.  Let heat to medium hot, add the eggplant slices, cook 2-3 minutes a side.  Place cooked eggplants on a paper towel lined plate.  Do a second batch of slices.  I put my cooked slices on a small baking sheet and put them into a 350 oven which I then turned off.  They stayed hot and I felt a tad more sure that they were fully cooked.

Make the sauce: heat the remaining EVOL in a large pot, add the onion, sauté until slightly softened; 2 minutes, add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, mashed up anchovy fillets, oil of fillets and the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often; 12-15 minutes.

Pasta: Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water, I used Barilla by the way.  Drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Save a cup of the pot water to thin the pasta.

Use the eggplant fry pan (wipe out the brown bits of crust) and ladle in 2-3 big scoops of the sauce and the pasta.  Cook one minute, turn off the stove and add the cheese, stir well.

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Construction of the turrets:

Place a big spoonful of sauce on each plate.  Top with an eggplant slice (I used my biggest slices for the bottom layer) and then top with a big twirl of the pasta mixture.  Top with another eggplant slice and then another pasta twirl.  Do this again.  Top with a dab of the red sauce.  You can also top it with some red pepper jelly but I didn’t go there!  I did sprinkle our towers with a few torn basil leaves. My towers were a tad sloppy Saturday but I made another one for Sunday lunch and that time I got the right amount of pasta between the eggplants and it looked amazing!

Dive in to this wild but yummy dish!  And check out this new cookbook; chock a block full of great relatively healthy recipes. This was one of the more complex ones; most seem fairly straight forward and sound darn delicious.

Spaghetti Bacon Primavera, the Bacon Fest Continues!

The tomato season is winding down but I have a few around and I thought I would enjoy them with pasta at least once more.  This recipe is a blending of two different recipes from two different cookbooks. One is a pasta primavera which has a creamy tomato sauce and fresh veggies and the other is a classical pasta carbonara with bacon and parmesan cheese.  This is their offspring! Bacon primavera pasta, ta da!  I have made and love both recipes but I wanted to have all their flavors together in one dish so I threw this together earlier this summer for the first time. It turned really quite yummy.  I made it again tonight and my three year old grandson ate lots of it; he loves veggies.  It was just so tasty that I had to have seconds.  The photograph is of that second portion before I dove into its creamy, bacony goodness.


So round up some garden veggies, a block of real Parmesan cheese, bacon and a decent box of spaghetti and whip this recipe up for a late summer treat. I used spaghetti but you could use any shape of pasta that floats your boat!  If you are a wheat lover this is easy to make with your standard pasta off the shelf.  Of course, I made it with GF pasta, Barilla to be exact and it really tasted like regular flour pasta when made with this sauce.

Spaghetti Bacon Primavera


4 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch lengths

1 medium onion chopped

½-2/3 cup sliced yellow squash, 1/3-1/2 inch thick

½ to 2/3 cup sliced zucchini, same thickness

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 egg yolks

1 whole egg

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ lb GF spaghetti

1 tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)


Heat a large pan of salted water and cook the pasta until just barely al dente, drain.  I do this cooking while I am cooking the veggies.

Saute the bacon in a large frying pan.  I used my mini wok which is great for many frying projects.  Cook while stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes until rendering the fat is well underway; say half done bacon.  Add the onion and continue cooking while it softens. Stir often. After 3-4 minutes add the two kinds of squash. If you couldn’t get yellow squash just green is okay.  Keep stirring!  Cook a few more minutes until the squash is close to done.  Stir in the tomato halves and cook 1 minute. Mix the cream, eggs and cheese in a bowl.  Add the hot pasta to the frying pan and dump in the liquid from the bowl, stirring well.  Turn off the heat as soon as you dump it in.  Add the tablespoon butter, some sea salt and freshly grated pepper and stir a bit more.  Serve immediately.  If you like to guild the lily top with a good sprinkle of more grated Parmesan cheese.

Last time I made it I used some sliced red bell pepper, sweet onion and green squash. Yes on tomatoes, no on bacon; vegetarian style for my god daughter.  It was good but I think I prefer the bacon version.  So it is totally up to you as to which version you prefer to create.  I have also made it with half and half instead of heavy cream; works pretty well too.  Last time I used 3 whole eggs as I didn’t want to waste the whites. I left out the butter this last time, forgot it; still good. I slightly overcooked my tomatoes in the latest version but they were tasty non-the-less. I think it is a very flexible recipe, just the kind I like!  Enjoy an easy to throw together late summer Italian veggie feast!