Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Recipe: Tuscan Chicken Stew

During college, I was fortunate to have spent a semester studying abroad in Italy... a semester full of amazing art and architecture, good friends, and, of course, Italian food and local wines.  Along with my small college group, I lived in a medieval monastery in the ancient mountainside town of Cortona, in the heart of Italy's breathtaking Tuscany region.  The view out my window was of red terracotta roofs and a huge valley of farms and cypress trees.  Cortona's main road was full of small
The belltower and town of Cortona, Italy. 
shops selling vegetables, fruits, pastries, meats, cheeses, handmade pasta, gelato, stationary, pottery, and breads intermingled with cafes and restaurants.  We walked almost everywhere, as the stone-paved streets were too narrow and steep for even tiny cars (although the occasional adventurous Italian would try going up or down the stepped streets on a Vespa).  

And the real Italian food!  Not Americanized "Italian" food, but real, healthy Italian food.  Our first course at dinner was always a vegetable and bread, followed by a handmade pasta (often with a tomato or vodka sauce), and then the main course.  Fresh ingredients, vegetables, whole grains, herbs, olive oil and old-fashioned cooking techniques are the staples of authentic Italian cooking.  

When I returned home to Connecticut, I looked for authentic Italian recipes and developed this rustic stew.  It's heavy on vegetables and herbs and pairs great with a fresh loaf of bread and bottle of wine.  (Oh, those evenings of trying to make it up the mountainside after a few glasses of local Cortona wine!)  Ciao!

Tuscan Chicken Stew

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  •  4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 3 tablespoons parsley
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into chunks (This is a good recipe for leftover chicken. To make vegetarian, substitute a hearty mushroom like portobello.)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth  (I use "Better Than Bouillon" brand, which has no MSG or additives)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 3 cups julienned carrots
  • 2 cups sliced onions
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms                                                                                                                          (You can change the amounts of vegetables as long as you get 7 total cups.  Try fennel in place of some of the other veggies.)        

1. Cook chicken by baking, poaching, or using leftovers.  Cut into small pieces.
2. Add all ingredients to a stock pot.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Add more broth and tomato puree if it's not soupy enough.
3. Serve with fresh-baked bread, such as my grandma's Oatmeal-Honey Bread.

      Freezing:   This soup freezes well.  I've recently sworn off Campbell's and Progresso canned soup because of the additives, so freezing small portions of this homemade soup is a super-convenient and healthier alternative.

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