For about a week now, my youngest daughter, the self-proclaimed Meatatarian, has been asking me to make my Roasted Veggie Ratatouille with Pasta for supper. I was hesitant only because it's been a pretty hot and humid few weeks, and roasting veg in the oven for 40 minutes would elevate the temperature in my kitchen, and in fact pretty much the whole house, exponentially. But when she looks at me with that sweet little face and says, 'Pleeeeease Mom....I've been craving it for like forever!', what is a momma to do?
Yesterday I picked up the fresh, organic veg - button mushrooms, vidalia onion, sweet orange cherry tomatoes, bud of garlic, eggplant, sweet red pepper, and my favorite, zucchini - at my local grocery store. But would the Roasted Veggie Ratatouille be enough for Sunday supper? Don't get me wrong - it's a pretty filling meal in itself and you can't argue the fact that it's jam packed with nutritional goodness, but Sunday dinner is traditionally something a little more , I don't know, substantial.
So I decided to pick up some chicken breasts to accompany all those yummy roasted vegetables. Immediately I began to think of what I could do to the chicken breasts to make the whole meal more cohesive. One can't just throw some chicken breasts on the grill and yummy them up with Maple Bourbon BBQ sauce...the flavorings of the two dishes would clash. So what to do, what to do?
Looking at the veg in my cart, I realized how very mediterranean they were, potentially anyway and it struck me...I would marinate the chicken breasts with some sort of mediterranean flavors, grill 'em up and toss them in with the ratatouille! Perfect!
However, some where around 11 o'clock last night, I realized I still didn't know what that mediterranean marinade would be. I could mix a little balsamic with extra virgin olive oil, maybe thrown in a little garlic and oregano...that would work but as I opened the fridge, like some superior force of nature was trying to lead me to just the right thing, the bottle of Greek Feta and Oregano salad dressing plopped at my feet.
I might be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but as soon as I saw it on the floor by my little tootsies, I knew I needn't look any further - I had found my marinade. I put the boneless skinless chicken breasts in a large zipper lock baggie, poured in somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of the Greek Feta and Oregano salad dressing, got as much air as I could out of the baggie, zipped it up, tossed the chicken a bit, then placed the baggie in a dish and into the refrigerator it went until I was ready to grill it up for supper today.
The veg, and the complete recipe for Roasted Veggie Ratatouille with Pasta can be found under 'Meatless Meals' in my recipe section, were easy peasy to prep - I tossed the sweet orange cherry tomatoes with a little extra virgin olive oil and a spinrkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, finely grated a couple of cloves of garlic over them, tossed them into a foil pie plate, then wrapped the remaining bud of garlic in foil.
Next I chopped all my veg into 1 and 1/2 to 2 inch pieces, add a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and about 1/2 tsp of each dried thyme and dried basil, then tossed them in a little extra virgin olive oil and onto a baking sheet brushed with a little olive oil they went.
Into the oven it all went for 40 minutes, and rather then spend those 40 minutes sweltering in the kitchen, I made myself a cocktail of raspberry lemonade with vodka and crushed ice, and sauntered on out onto my patio to relax in the sunshine while the veg did their thing.
When there was 12 minutes left on the timer, I brought a medium sized pot of salted water to boil, popped in my rotini, took the chicken out of the fridge, and stepped back outside to warm up the grill. The smell of that Greek Feta and Oregano marinated chicken when it hit the grill was simply amazing - enough for my neighbours to call out, 'And what are you cooking tonight? Smells awesome!'.
My timing was impeccable, much to my surprise - funny how when timing is a non-issue, its perfect, but when it is an issue, you always have to give yourself an extra 20 or 30 minutes. But I digress....just as I took the chicken off of the grill, the timer went off for the oven, and, upon checking on the pasta, it was al dente and ready to go.
From there it was simply a matter of tenting the chicken to let the juices redistribute, removing the veg from the oven, draiing the pasta, saving a cup of the pasta water, throwing the tomatoes and a few cloves of roasted garlic into the serving dish, add the pasta water, mash 'em up, toss in the pasta and then the veg, a little crumbled feta and parmesan on top, slice up the chicken breasts, and dinner was served! I opted to serve the chicken breasts on the side rather then into the ratatouille because upon sampling a teeny tiny piece, (ok, it was a rather large piece), it was so juicy and delicious, it could sit on that plate on its on merit. The aroma alone from this meal will make you salivate and the taste? Your taste buds will dance with joy, eager for the next delicious forkful to enter your mouth....it really is THAT good!
My 11 year old daughter proclaimed that she could eat nothing else but that meal every day for the rest of her life and be happy - that's some pretty big praise right there! But what's even better is that sitting in my refrigerator right now is enough leftover ratatouille for lunch tomorrow! I just love it when I can knock off two meals with one recipe and I don't have a moment of guilt about it because the seasonings in the ratatouille will only mingle and intertwine more overnight. At the risk of dating myself, for some strange reason, in my head, I can hear George Peppard say, 'I just love it when a plan comes together...'!