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Stuck in a Green Rut

(post, Anne Zimmerman)


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I knew I was in trouble when I asked M. what he wanted for dinner the next night and he said this: 
"Whatever. I just assumed we'd have vegetables over farro... You know, your usual." 

Ouch.

But it got me thinking. Had I fallen into a vegetarian, roasted vegetables served over whole grains rut? Truthfully, I was kind of aware of it. All of my clipped recipes looked sort of the same: heavy on the veggies, often with thai flavors or in some sort of curry sauce, served over rice or another grain. I was trying to keep us healthy and eating lots of greens, but maybe I had gone a tad too far? 

Clearly it was time to mix up my repertoire. I poured over recipes -- I searched cookbooks, the internet, my overflowing blue file full of newspaper clippings and magazine pages. Nothing was inspiring me, or even worse, the things that looked fabulous and inventive were vegetarian dishes served over whole grains. 

I was stymied by the fact that M. is a great cook, and I am seriously intimidated by him. This is why I usually venture in the direction of things he is not inclined to cook -- random roasted vegetables and hard-to-find nutty whole grains. My careful choices make it less likely that I will disappoint his palate or that he'll offer kind but pointed criticism that might bring me to tears of frustration at the dinner table. 

After much searching for a stunning menu that had no greens or grains, I decided I was making this whole thing harder than it needed to be. We have a lifetime of dinners ahead of us, and I'm pretty sure he thinks I am a capable (maybe even a good) cook. Instead of worrying about it, I was going to make what I felt like eating. If he didn't like it he could whip himself up some braised greens over white rice. That's his go-to meal, by the way, and doesn't it sound suspiciously like mine? It's just that I prefer my veggies to be of the lighter green variety and my rice to be brown. 

But I digress. This was dinner, nary a green garden vegetable in sight: 

Balsamic Chicken and Peppers
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 seeded and sliced red bell pepper
1 seeded and sliced yellow bell pepper
1 large, thinly sliced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1. Cook the chicken: season chicken generously with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan over medium high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. 
2. Cook the vegetables: Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the same pan over medium high heat. Add the peppers and onion and saute until softened about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. 
3. Finish the chicken: add the vinegar and half each of the basil and thyme and stir, scraping up the browned bits from the pan's bottom. Return the chicken and any juices from the plate to the pan, spooning the peppers over the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the chicken is opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining basil and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among four plates and serve with roasted potato wedges, or if you dare, a big green salad.