Recently, I hosted female friends for a rousing night of Bunco. (For those unaware of what Bunco is, imagine a group of women–the magic number is 12, but when I am cooking, who’s counting? We gather over hors d’oeuvres and favorite beverages to talk and catch up from the last month’s gathering, we eat a meal prepared by the hostess, and then we roll dice. It’s all luck; no skill involved.
Except with the meal, if a hostess likes to cook for her friends like we do. I have had amazing dinners at the Bunco ladies’ houses, so I always want to reciprocate in kind.
This June, I decided to treat them to two special dishes shared by my sister. They are light, with complex flavors and aromas. Served with a salad and green vegetable, they make for a satisfying meal. (Except of course for my mother, who reminds me time and time again that she hates garlic and passes on basil.) I have tweaked the recipes so that you will be past the trial and error of too much of a good thing like oregano or brown sugar.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup olive oil (I use light)
Whisk vinegar, lemon juice and honey in bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until ready to use.
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound orzo
Cook orzo in chicken broth. Drain and transfer to large bowl, stirring occasionally until cool.
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 7 oz package feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted.
Mix the above ingredients except the pine nuts into the cooled orzo. Add vinaigrette and toss. Add pine nuts just before serving. (My sis puts pine nuts in a bowl and lets everyone add their own. I toss it all together.) I remember that my sister made a main dish with this pasta, stir-frying chicken tenders to cut up and add to the dish. She says she never did that, but I could swear she did.
I serve this at room temperature and warm it up for later meals. Some prefer it cold though. It’s a personal thing.
This dish is a quantity recipe. The marinate can easily flavor 16 chicken breasts or whatever you can fit into an 11×13 pan. The longer you marinate the chicken the more flavor and moistness. The recipe calls for overnight. This is what I did for Bunco; however, I made it once with only 6 hours during the day, and it was delicious.
Head of garlic, peeled & finely chopped (use less for folks scared of garlic like my mom)
Dried oregano (recipe calls for 1/4 cup but I use less–oregano can overpower)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted green olives (no pimentos)
1/2 cup capers & juice
6 bay leaves
Brown sugar (recipe calls for 1 cup, but I just sprinkle liberally; I don’t want my chicken too sweet)
1 cup white wine (I use a Pinot Grigio that is not too sweet by Barefoot but any white wine would work)
Layer chicken breasts in bottom of a 11×13 pan. Spread all ingredients over chicken saving the brown sugar and white wine for last. Sprinkle the brown sugar and pour the Pinot Grigio over the entire pan contents and marinate overnight, covered.
Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for one hour.