When did Valentine’s Day become a stressful event? You try to take your sweetheart to a romantic dinner at a nice restaurant but once you step into the restaurant, you find out that the whole restaurant has turned into a luxury dorm cafeteria. Not only that, you sit down and your elbows brush against the guy or gal sitting at the next table way too close to yours.
Even worse, the menu has become a set menu. Great! It’s Valentine’s, you can’t be indecisive, you know. You can pick a dinner from set A, B or C or worse yet, there’s only one choice. (Why do people bother calling it a choice when there is only ONE!). You sit there listening to other couple’s conversations (yes, the one that keep brushing his or her elbows against yours–you should be thankful they aren’t sitting in your laps) while you are talking romantically to your sweetheart and worry that other people might eavesdropping too. Well I’ve got a headache already just thinking of the chaotic scene.
How about a home-cooked healthy dinner that will take only 10 minutes to prep and less than 5 minutes to cook? The main course is a lean, pan-fried Chicken Milanese with arugula, and oranges in syrup for dessert. The chicken isn’t going to be breaded in the traditional way to save time and minimize the carb quota for the day.
Ingredients: (Use the amount that’s appropriate for two of you)
Chicken breast, boneless, skinless 10 oz.
Cherry tomatoes 8 oz. pack
Arugula 2 oz.
Lemon 1 whole
Oil or butter 1 tablespoon
Parsley chopped (to garnish) I used the flat-leaf kind
Shaved or grated cheese of your choice (optional)
Blood oranges 2-3 whole
Organic white granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
Water 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons
Salt a tiny pinch
Mint (to garnish)
Syrup Dissolve the sugar in the water. You can do it in a pot over the stove, microwave it (be careful do not let it boil over) or just dissolve it at room temperature if you use filtered water.
Oranges cut each into 8 wedges
and remove the peel
1.1) clean, trim the fat and slice it down the middle like you would a bagel to create two equal halves. The chicken pieces should then be about 3/8” − 1/2” thick.
1.2) Pound both pieces until they flatten down to about 1/4” – 3/8” thick.
If you don’t have meat pounder, use fork to prick the whole piece of chicken then use beer bottle (clean it throughly first) or something heavy to pound it down.
1.3) Season both with salt and pepper. Be careful with salt, do not put too much, just lightly coated. There will be more flavor from tomatoes and lemon added to it later on. You don’t want salt to mask all the other wonderful tastes.
Tomatoes slice them crosswise about 1/4” thick (3-4 pieces per tomato)
All of these steps shouldn’t take you longer than 10 minutes. I’ll allow you 15, if you aren’t in the kitchen often, or even 20 minutes for those of you that use the kitchen once in a blue moon, so you guys will have extra time to find your hidden tools and perform the tasks.
Arugula wash, if it hasn’t been, but buying the pre-washed kind would be the best. Let it dry on a paper towel and put it on the plate before you start cooking.
Lemon cut in half, then pick all the seeds out.
Dessert First drop the orange sections in the syrup, then add a tiny pinch of salt and put them in the fridge.
We are quite done with the dessert now. This is a typical Thai dessert called “Som-loy-kaew” or “oranges in syrup”.
I recommend cooking this when your sweetheart has already arrived. It is best served warm right from the stove. You can pour two glasses of wine, have a cheese and cold cuts board out for an appetizer, and he or she can watch you cook the dinner.
2.1) put oil or butter in a heavy skillet or frying pan, and set the stove on medium high heat.
2.2) The pan should be hot enough in about 30 seconds to a minute, and when the butter is melted and bubbling, or the oil gives off a very faint smoke, lay the chicken in the pan.
2.3) Wait until you see the edges of the chicken turn white (see picture). This shouldn’t take longer than a minute to minute and a half depending on how thin you pounded the chicken pieces. Flip the chicken and then add the sliced tomatoes to the pan.
2.4) It shouldn’t take longer than another minute for the chicken to be cooked through. Put the cooked chicken pieces over the bed of arugula on the plates you prepared, but leave the tomatoes in the pan.
2.5) Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the tomatoes and continue cooking.
The tomatoes will give some juice in the pan, and you want to scrape the bottom of the pan so the juice absorbs all the chicken flavor and spices. But do not leave them in too long–this shouldn’t take longer than another minute. Put the tomatoes and the juice from the pan over the chicken pieces on the plates.
2.6) Squeeze the lemon on the chicken pieces, then sprinkle more parsley. You can add the shaved cheese on top at this point. I don’t add the cheese and it’s still delicious.
Voila! You are ready to serve with a glass of good Pinot Grigio or buttery Chardonnay. Just remember that it actually takes longer to read this blog than to prepare the entire meal. Once you finish the main course, crush some ice and put it over the oranges in syrup, garnish with mint, then they are ready to serve.
Since neither a Democrat nor Republican government intends to make Valentine’s Day a national holiday yet, I think a simple dish like this would be easy on a school night. Happy (protesting) Valentine’s Day!