Classics, Dinner, Italian, Meat, Savory

Braciole

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This is my take on a classic Italian Braciole or beef-roll ups.  This is an easy and hearty dish that looks extremely elegant.  You can make the filling several days ahead and if you use store-bought marinara sauce, this meal comes together in about a half an hour, elevating any boring weeknight to date night!  Here is how I made this dish.

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Ingredients:

For the roll-up:

2 pieces of flank-steak, pounded thin (the package might say “braciole)

A double batch of Sauteed Mushrooms and Spinach

1 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

Salt and cracked black pepper to season the meat, about a 1tsp of each.

1 Tbsp of olive oil

Kitchen string cut into 6-8 pieces, long enough to wrap around and tie the rolled meat

For the sauce:

1 cup of marinara or tomato-basil sauce

1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tsp of Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar

Method:

Cook the spinach and mushrooms (you can find the recipe here).  You will need to double the recipe so that you have enough filling.  The filling can be made several days in advance.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Mix the bread crumb with spinach and mushroom filling.

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Divide the filling on to the two pieces of flank steak and spread it on to the meat.  Press the filling down, so that it sticks to the meat–it will stay in place when you go to roll it.

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Starting from the short end, roll the steak up like a jelly-roll, tightly; tucking in any filling that may fall out.

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Using the pre-cut kitchen twine ( I like to cut it ahead of time), tie up the rolls tightly.

Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet and once it is hot, add the beef roll-ups.  I like to add some additional cracked black pepper at this step, makes for a really nice crust!

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Sear on high heat, about 2-3 minutes per side, making sure you get the entire surface of the roll browned–not just top and bottom.  After you get the initial sear, you may lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, rolling the beef to a different surface ever 2 minutes.  The entire process will take about 15- 20 minutes.  It might take longer if your rolls are larger.

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let the beef rolls rest for at least 5 minutes before you cutting the string and slicing the meat.

While the beef is searing, heat all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepot.  You are looking to warm up the sauce so that all the ingredients get a chance to blend in and impart their flavor.  You keep the sauce on a low simmer the entire time the beef is cooking.

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To plate dinner, spoon sauce on a plate and arrange two slices of the braciole/beef-roll up.  Pour yourself a glass of red wine and dinner is served!

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Classics, Dinner, Poultry, Savory

Almost Jägerschnitzel and Spaetzle

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Jägerschnitzel is a classic German dish where a thin pork cutlet is fried and bathed in a rich mushroom sauce.  It is usually accompanied by egg noodles or Spaetzle-a German egg noodle-like dumpling.  This is my husband’s favorite dish to order at the Munich Haus (Local German restaurant).  I call it “almost” because I make it at home with chicken–Perdue sells thinly sliced chicken breasts which are perfect for this recipe.  I have purchased thin-sliced pork cutlets, but then are often never thin enough and I always end up tearing the meat during the “pounding” process.  Therefore, I stick to using chicken.  Also, you can never have enough “chicken dinner” recipes.

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Ingredients–for the Mushroom Sauce:

2 Tbsp of olive oil (additional 1 Tbsp, if you are finishing the sauce another day)

1, 8oz package of sliced mushroom

1 medium shallot sliced

1/2 tsp of dried thyme

1/4 tsp of sweet paprika

1/2 tsp of Worchestershire sauce

3 turns of the pepper mill, about 1/2 tsp of fresh cracked black pepper

1 and 1/2 Tbsp flour

1/ 2 cup chicken stock

Salt to taste.

Method:

Heat oil in a pan and add the mushrooms and shallots.  Saute for a few minutes and once the mushrooms and shallots start to soften, add thyme and paprika.  The most important tip for this step is not to add salt.  Salt draws out liquid from the mushrooms, which will result in steamed mushrooms and not browned mushrooms!

 

Saute for 3-4 minutes on medium and then add the black pepper and the Worchestershire sauce.

Continue to saute till the mixture has reduced, and the mushrooms and shallots and soft and deep brown in color.

 

At this point, you can stop the cooking process and store the mushroom mixture.  I will sometimes do this if I see that the mushrooms are going bad in the fridge.  If you choose to stop at this step, empty the contents into a food storage bowl.  Add 2 tbsps of water to the hot pan and scrape off all the delicious bits and pieces. You don’t want to miss out on the flavor, just because you are prepping ahead of time.  Add the pan juices to the storage bowl, cool, and store in the fridge.

 

When you are ready to make the sauce, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and re-heat the  mixture.  If you are not re-heating the mushrooms, proceed to the next step.

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Add flour and stir continuously till the flour is incorporated and the mushroom mixture

img_20200424_174651looks very “dry”.  Add chicken stock and reduce to a simmer.

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Continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.   Taste for salt.  This is the first time you are adding salt.  I like to this at the very end becasue worhestershire sauce and chicken stock all bring in a little bit of salt. Continue this process for an addition 2-3 minutes till most of the liquid evaporates and it turns into a thick and rich gravy.

I forgot to taka picture, but if you look at the plated food, you will get an idea of what the consistency should look like

For the Schnitzel:

Super thin chicken cutlets–use pork cutlets for the real deal !

Bread the cutlet with egg and breadcrumbs.  I like to season the egg wash with salt and pepper and I use Italian breadcrumbs.

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Fry cutlets in a pan till golden.  If you are making the the sauce and the spaetzle at the same time, you might want to fry the cutlets and store them on a wire rack in the a 175F oven–this will keep the cutlets warm and the wire rack will prevent the cutlets from getting a soggy bottom.

 

Ingredients–for the Spaetzle (original recipe from Tyler Florence)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 Tbsp of butter

1/2 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp of chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together.  The dough should be smooth, tacky, and thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, pour the dough into a potato ricer.

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Hold the ricer over the simmering water and slowly push the dough through the holes. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.  It can stay in the colander for about 10-15 minutes, while to finish up on the sauce and fry the cutlets.

 

Once you are ready, heat butter in a pan (I usually, do this in same pan that I used to fry the cutlets) and add the dumplings and the breadcrumbs.  Toss in the butter, on high heat for a quick 2-3 minutes, till the spaetzle is light golden and crispy.

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Garnish with parsley and they spaetzle is ready.

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To serve:

Plate up a huge pile fo the spaetzle, with a schnitzel on the side and drench the two with the mushroom sauce.

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Dinner, Mexican, Poultry, Savory

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

 

00000img_00000_burst20200417172959541_coverThis is a fun, nutrient-dense dinner that I wish I had thought to make before.  It looks like you are eating pub-food, but in reality, it is a hearty dinner.  Like any “stuffed” recipe, this can be tailored to your taste or dietary restrictions.  I made it with chicken because you always need to come up with creative ways of cooking chicken breast; you can most certainly make it with ground beef or add no animal protein at all.   This particular version has Mexican flavors.  Personally, I think the spiciness to chilies pair really well with the sweetness of the potatoes.  It is also an easy recipe as it uses ingredients that probably already have in your pantry/fridge.  Here is what you will need:

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Ingredients:

2, medium-sized sweet potatoes, thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned

4, thin chicken breast slices or 1 big chicken breast.

1 bunch of scallions, about 8 stalks– chopped.  Use half for cooking and half for garnish

3 Tbsp of black beans from a 15oz can

3 Tbsp of sweet corn from a 15oz can

1 medium-sized jalapeno, dice half of the pepper for cooking and slice the remaining half for garnish

1 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling

1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

1/4 cup of store-bought salsa (spice level of your choice, I used “hot”)

1/4 cup water

1Tbsp of olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Cheese and avocado slices for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 400F

Scrub and wash the sweet potatoes and cut them in half, lengthwise.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

During the last 9 minutes of baking, add in the chicken breasts.  The goal is to get them par-cooked so as to shred the meat.  You might have to adjust the cook-time depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breast.

Let the chicken and the sweet potatoes cool for about 5 minutes or until you are comfortable handling them.  Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the sweet potatoes, leaving a little bit left on the skin.

Using a fork, shred the chicken.  You will end up with approximately, 3/4 to 1 cup of shredded chicken.

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Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and add scallions, jalapenos, and all the spices.  Stir everything around in the pan to incorporate and then add the chicken and the sweet potato.  Continue stirring till everything is completely covered in the spice mixture.

Add the corn, beans, salsa, and water, and continue to cook on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.

During these five minutes, stick the potato skins back in the 400F oven to crisp up slightly.  If you want the skin to be more crisp, consider increasing the baking temperature and roasting for a little bit longer.

Fill the potato skins with the chicken mixture, I still had some of the mixture leftover.

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After filling the skin, top with as much cheese as you like and serve piping hot with a garnish of scallions, sliced jalapenos, and sliced avocadoes.

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Dinner, Indian, Meat, Savory

Gosht jalfrezi

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The word Gosht is a Persian word and loosely refers to any kind of read meat cooked till tender.  It can be mutton, lamb or beef.  This particular version of Jalfrezi is made with beef and is another one of my Simmer Sauce Solutions.  The vegetarian version of this recipe, made with paneer, potatoes, peppers, peas, and cauliflower is equally delicious.  Here is how doctored up a store-bought simmer sauce to make dinner in under an hour.

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Ingredients:

1.5 lbs of cubed stew meat (I used beef)

1 medium red onion, red pepper, and green pepper–diced

1 tsp of olive oil

3/4 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of chili powder

1/4 tsp of cayenne powder

1 tsp of ground cumin

1/2 tsp of garam masala

1/2 tsp of sugar

1, 15oz jar of Patak’s Jalfrezi simmer sauce

15oz water

Method

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pot and add the beef.  Make sure the beef is at room temperature and dry–otherwise it will not brown. Fry on high for about 5 minutes

Once the meat starts to turn light brown, add in all the spices except for the sugar and garam masala.

Sautee the beef on medium-high.  Chop the vegetables during this process.

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Add the veggies, to the beef and continue to saute on medium-high heat till the vegetables are soft.

Add the who jar of the jalfrezi simmer sauce.  Fill the jar with water, rinse our ever last bit of the sauce and add the liquid to the pot.

Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.

After about 20 minutes, check to see if the beef is fork-tender.  At this point add the sugar and garam masala and simmer for another 10 minutes on low heat.

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Serve hot with basmati rice!

Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Italian, Savory

Spaghetti and Meatballs

 

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Nothing gets more comforting than spaghetti and meatballs.   If you have read my Simmer Sauce Solutions article, you will know that I have good pasta sauce in my pantry all the time, making it extremely easy to pull together this meal.  During this pandemic, as we all spend Easter away from our families, a simple, classic meal like this is just what the soul needs.  I did not grow up with spaghetti and meatballs, I had Murgh Kofta.  However, my husband did and he associates this meal with a lot of wonderful childhood memories. Therefore, the pressure was on to remake this meal to his liking–after all, you don’t want to mess with food memories.  So this recipe is now our family’s version of spaghetti and meatballs; the husband approved and we had hearty Easter dinner!  So if you are like me and did not grow up with this classic Italian-American meal, I hope you try it.  If you like it, please drop a comment below!

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Ingredients:

1 pound 80/20 beef (you need the fat for flavor)

1 small onion

2 tsp of minced garlic

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes

1 tsp of dried parsley

4 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

1 egg

1, 24oz jar of Victoria’s Tomato Basil sauce

1/2 box of pasta or however much you need to cook for your family.

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F and line a metal baking dish with parchment paper

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In a food processor, chop onion and minced garlic together, The smaller the chop, the better, it will make smooth, round meatballs.

In a bowl, add the minced onion and garlic, beef, egg, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, and breadcrumbs.

With your hands (yes, your hands!! you have to use your fingers to mix), start mixing all the ingredients together, without folding the in the beef–it is in the bowl, but just work around it.  Once all the other ingredients are mixed, start folding in the beef.  It is critical not to overmix the meatball mixture, nobody wants dense meatballs that tough like hockey pucks.

Roll meatballs into 1-inch rounds and place them on a baking sheet.  I got approximately 12 meatballs from this recipe.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes, till the meatballs are brown and cooked through.  Half-way through the baking process, I remove most of the oil that sweats out from the meatballs–you don’t want to start a grease fire in your oven.

Remove meatballs from the cookie sheet and drain and cool on a paper-towel lined plate.  At this point, you can cool the meatballs completely and freeze them or you could proceed to bathe them in the tomato sauce.

Start cooking the pasta according to package directions.

In a separate pot, add the meatballs and cover them with jarred tomato sauce, just enough to cover all the meatballs.  I like to add some dried basil and red pepper flakes to “wake-up” the jarred sauce, but that is entirely optional.  This brand is really good to begin with!

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Reserve, half cup of the startchy cooking water, and drain the pasta, 2 minutes shy of the cook time.  Return the drained pasta to the pot, add the pasta water and enough of the jarred sauce to coat the pasta.  Cook the pasta in the liquid for another two minutes till most of the liquid has evaporated and pasta is completely cooked through.

Plate the pasta with meatballs and extra sauce and serve piping hot.  A garnish of basil would be great, but during this pandemic, I am working with what in the fridge and pantry.

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Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Poultry, Savory

Roasted Split Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

 

IMG_20181001_183729Roast chicken is a classic, but it takes time–more suited for a Sunday night.  It has its benefits too.  Plenty of leftovers for sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.  However, when it is fall and you want a hearty, comforting meal on a weeknight,  turn to this recipe.  The trick is to remember to marinade the night before and take the time to brown the chicken (preferably in a cast iron skillet).  Try it soon !

INGREDIENTS

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

2 large split chicken breasts

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk together all ingredients except chicken.

Put split chicken in a re-sealable plastic bag and add marinade.

Seal bags, removing as much air as possible and massage marinade around chicken to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. convectional or 425 degrees F. conventional.

Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. Heat a large heavy bottom skillet (I use my cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Once heated, put chicken skin side down in the skillet and cook until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer skillet into the oven.

Roast until chicken is browned, meat is cooked through and juices run clear (an instant reading thermometer when inserted in the meat should read 165 degrees F.) about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow sitting 15 minutes to “rest” (this allows the juices to settle in the meat so they don’t run out when chicken is cut).

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Dinner, Fish & Seafood, Lent

Cornmeal-crusted Catfish with Cajun-style Orzo

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One of my fondest memories from growing up in Texas was eating fried catfish.  Of course catfish also made the rotation in regular fish curries – a staple for Bengalis.  more recently, I had cornmeal crusted catfish at Husk, an amazing southern restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.  So, when I saw catfish in the market in New England, I just had to recreate some of these food memories.  Hope you like it !

Ingredients for fish:

2/3 cups cornmeal

1/3 cup flour

½ tsp of Paprika

1 cup of milk

1 Tbsp of hot sauce

3 large catfish filets

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive for drizzling

Method:

Preheat oven to 425F

Mix milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper in large dish.

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Marinade fish filets in the milk mixture for 15-20 minutes.

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In another plate/shallow dish, mix cornmeal, flour, paprika, more salt and pepper.

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Shake off excess milk from the fish and coat them in the cornmeal mixture.

Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with oil and arrange the filets.  Drizzle olive oil on the fish.

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Bake for 15 mins and broil on high for another 5 mins.

Let the fillets rest for a minute or so before serving.

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Ingredients for Cajun-style Orzo:

1 medium sized zucchini, diced.

1 small tomato, de-seeded and diced

1 medium yellow pepper, diced

½ white onion, diced

1 cup orzo, cooked according to package directions

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp of garlic

2 tsp of Cajun spices (you can change this to Italian seasoning—depending on the rest of your meal).

A pinch of dried oregano

1 & 1/4  cup water.

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat oil (high heat) in a pan and sauté zucchini till golden (tip: don’t salt the zucchini, it won’t brown).  Once it is browned, add a pinch of salt and set aside.

Reduce temperature to medium high and In the same pan, sauté the remaining vegetables with garlic, salt and pepper.  Once the vegetables soften, add ¼ cup water, cover and simmer till the vegetables become saucy.

Add the cooked orzo, remaining 1 cup water, and oregano.  Cover and simmer, stirring ever so often to prevent the pasta from sticking.  The pasta is cooked, and it will get over cooked, but that gives it a creamy consistency, almost like a risotto. Taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. You can serve immediately or stop the cooking process while there is still a little bit of liquid left in the pan.  Reheat right before serving.  I would not wait for more than two hours between pre-cook and serving.

Add the sautéed zucchini mixed with the orzo, or you can have it on the side.

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Dinner, Gluten-free, Poultry, Quick Dinner, Savory

Raspberry Balsamic Chicken

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A few months ago I saw a bottle of locally made Raspberry Balsamic vinegar.  I bought it, but never got around to using it till now.  I read several recipes online and sort of borrowed from different versions and came up with my own.  It is pretty fast to make, provided you have the chicken thawed (something I always struggle to remember as I rush out the door in the morning).  Here is what you will need:

Ingredients:

2 large boneless skinless chicken breast

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 shallot, sliced

2 Tsps of dried thyme

1 Tsp of crushed red pepper (optional)

1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine

1 Tbsp of honey

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Heat olive oil in a skillet.

Season chicken liberally with salt, pepper and 1 tsp of thyme and sear till light golden.

Add shallots and saute with the chicken for a few minutes till they are soft.

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Stir together vinegar, wine, honey, crushed red pepper, remaining thyme, salt and pepper in the bowl/cup/vessel of your choosing.

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Add vinegar mixture to the shallots and chicken and simmer on medium heat for 5 mins to cook off the alcohol.

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Place the whole pan in the oven, uncovered and bake for 15-20 minutes, till chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced and thick.

Serve with you favorite sides, we had sauteed green beans and leftover smashed red potatoes.

 

 

Classics, Dinner, Fish & Seafood, Lent

Cracker Crusted Cod

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I was recently chatting with my best friend and fellow-food blogger (An Artsy Appetite) about baking, food, school and just life in general—when I realized that I have had no time to post a single recipe on my own blog!  Well, a lot of things have been happening.  Primarily, both my husband and I are trying to finish up grad school.  As a result, it has been a lot of slow-cooker soups and stews.  I decided to cook a proper meal (not heat up leftovers from the freezer) and have a nice fish dinner (fish Fridays during Lent).  This recipe is from Epicurious and is a classic New England favorite much like my New England Baked Scallops  and Parker House Scrod.  I hope it makes it to your dinner table too!

INGREDIENTS

    • 4 tablespoons (divided) butter
    • 1/2 package – 1/2 sleeve buttery round crackers (e. g. Ritz), crushed
    • 1 pound thick-cut cod loin
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine
    • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

PREPARATION

    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
    • Place 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave on high, about 30 seconds. Stir buttery round crackers into melted butter.
    • Place remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a 9×9-inch baking dish. Melt in the preheated oven, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove dish from oven.
    • Coat both sides of cod in melted butter in the baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
    • Bake cod in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
    • Remove from oven; top with lemon juice, wine, and cracker mixture. Place back in oven and bake until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 10 more minutes.

I served it with oven roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed green beans.

 

Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Gluten-free, Italian, Poultry, Savory

Chicken Cacciatore

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For those who know me and also read my recipes, you might have noticed that I cook with whatever is lying around.  I rarely “follow” recipes, most of it is by smell, look and taste.  Nevertheless, I love collecting cookbooks and my inner scientist can respect the importance of a well written “protocol”/”recipe”.  So I dusted off a cookbook that I got for Christmas and cooked this recipe–with a few changes

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Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 pounds of chicken breast, cut into cubes

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp of rosemary

1 small can of chopped tomatoes

salt and pepper

(original recipe called for fresh rosemary, chicken thighs and tomato paste)

 

Method:

Heat oil in a skillet, season chicken with salt and pepper and saute till browned.  Set aside.

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Add onions, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary to skillet.  Season with salt and saute till softened.

 

Add chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cups water.  Return chicken to pan.

Cook on low heat till sauce reduces.

Serve with crusty bread.

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