Lemons. This sunny yellow spherical fruit makes me happy. Cheerfully colored and perfectly flawed, the surface is firm yet supple with shallow dimples. When I scrape the rind, or protective skin, I immediately smell fresh, sharp citrus and feel wedges of flesh under my nails. I inhale the zest and feel a sense of calmness, simultaneously with happiness. I touch my tongue to my fingertips and the sour, sharp and tangy taste activates my salivary glands, literally mouthwatering. I close my eyes and warmly remember the freshly squeezed lemonade my mother made during the hot summers of my childhood. I smile when I think of the hundreds of bright yellow wedges of lemon we cut for a tailgate in college, later to be used to counteract the burning taste of cheap liquor.
My heart swells as I remember the lemons of Monterosso al Mare in the province of La Spezia, part of the region of Liguria, one of the five villages in Cinque Terre, Italy.
Today, this particular lemon is somewhat heavy in my hand, and I am now anxious to see, touch and taste inside. I firmly hold the lemon with my left hand as I slice through it with a knife in my right hand. The juice lightly burns a cut on my finger as the globe separates at the equator. The flesh shimmers as a few seeds fall onto the cutting board. The colorful outer layer lies in contrast now with the bitter white pith. There are nine segments of flesh, full of juicy pulp, dripping onto the cutting board, creating a pool around each seed. I touch my tongue to the small cut on my left index finger, licking the acidic juices away. Lemons. Bittersweet. Full of health benefits, seasonal, with diverse uses, deliciously tangy, beautiful to look at and touch, perfect when ripe, easily bruises, and capable of burning. Fruit mimicking life, again.
What shall I create today, utilizing these beautiful lemons? I also have chicken breasts, capers and frozen artichokes. And I am now thinking about are Italian vacation. How about a simple, lemony chicken dish with artichokes and capers? This recipe is adapted from a cooking class I took at Mon Ami Winery with Loretta Paganini many years ago.
What you will need for four servings:
Lemon Chicken with Artichokes & Capers
- 2 whole lemons brushed with extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- 2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts, scaloppini-style
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, drained
- 1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and rinsed
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh, flat-leaf Italian parsley: one teaspoon chopped plus several leaves for garnish
Roast two whole lemons brushed with olive oil and sprinkled lightly with sea salt for 25 minutes in 350 degree oven. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While lemons are roasting, rinse the chicken breasts, pat dry and pound between sheets of plastic wrap. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then dredge chicken through flour to coat both sides of each breast. Shake off excess flour.
Once lemons are roasted and chicken prepped, heat extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add chicken breasts, garlic, and cook until golden brown, about five minutes per side. Stir in artichokes and capers. Add wine, chicken broth (I use 1/2 cup of each so there’s plenty of yummy sauce on the side) and bay leaf, bringing to a boil while scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet. Reduce heat, gently boil until liquid is reduced and thickened, turning chicken over after five minutes. Add butter, the juice of one roasted lemon, careful to sift seeds from the juices, and one teaspoon of chopped parsley. Simmer until butter melts and chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice second roasted lemon to use as garnish, along with fresh parsley leaves.
Serve with pasta, or delicious crusty bread to sop up the juices.
What are you creating in your kitchen today?