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I have nothing to say to you today. It’s not personal, I swear. I like you all, every single one of you just the same amount, and the amount is rather significant.

It’s possible I’m suffering from a less known, and yet quite peculiar form of the Samson Syndrome. (Remember the story of Samson and Delilah?) I got a haircut today, and quite possibly along with the hair I lost my brainpower.

Another explanation could be hiding in my estrogen high. The hormone’s levels have been rising for a few days now, and such high tide usually pushes all reason away through my ears. There’s probably one lingering thought still roaming inside my skull. If I stay still for a minute I can actually hear it stumble upon pieces of leftover furniture in my head. It falls down, bounces against the walls, and….Wait, I can hear it now… Holly cow, I think the last rational thought I had left has just committed suicide and jumped off the cliff!

Popcorn anyone?

Luckily, I have a recipe sitting around that I had put together for my clients earlier, and now I can just pretty much copy & paste it here for your satisfaction. That requires little to NO thinking on my part. And who knows, you may actually go bananas over the salad. Check it out!

GREEN SALAD WITH MANGO & BASIL VINAIGRETTE

This guy’s name is Foeniculum vulgare, or simply Fennel for close friends. Boy, is he vulgar! And it has anise flavor to add insult to injury. Hence, it makes a perfect sense paired with sweet and tart mango and intermixed with intensely green greens. Toasted pignoli not only add body to the salad, but also round its edges. Try it and you’ll understand what I mean by that.

Fennel may look scary at the first glance, but in reality he’s a pussy cat. With a sharp knife chop the green top off, then quarter the bulb. Using the tip of your paring knife cut out the “core” in each quarter, as it’s too hard to bite, thus no longer pleasant. Now slice the fennel into paper-thin pieces. Voila! Ready for the salad.

Ingredients:

–       1 bag of green salad mix

–       fennel, thinly sliced

–       ripe mango, diced

–       1/4 cup raw pine nuts (pignoli)

–       scallions, chopped

–       fresh basil, a bunch

–       extra virgin olive oil

–       white balsamic vinegar

–       honey

–       salt + pepper to taste

Get comfortable and toast your nuts, then set the pignoli aside to cool. Empty the greens into a large bowl. Add paper-thin slices of fennel, mango cubes, chopped scallions, and the pine nuts.

Using a blender or Magic Bullet, mix together 3 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of vinegar, a bunch of fresh basil leaves, salt, pepper and a touch of honey. Taste the dressing, and if approved by your taste buds sprinkle it over the salad mix, toss about, and serve along the Chicken Thighs dish we made last time. (You know, that night you and me had an online rendez-vous playing with those THIGHS and sipping white wine by the candlelight…shhh!)

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WE MADE IT! It’s January 2010. Dear New Decade, here we are!

Mama, thank you for those beautifully embroidered pillow cases with our monograms. May the world learn about your talents.

Now back to the kitchen.

Have I ever mentioned my fascination with Jamie Oliver, the British chef and an author of gazillion cooking books? He’s a man of many assets. However, it’s not the superb chopping skills, or the teeth loosely arranged in the mouth of that alleged heartthrob (He has a speech impediment, but who cares when he lisps with a British accent?) that got my interest. I’ve yearned for Jamie Oliver to be my homie ever since I learned of his organic vegetable gardens that he plants around his house in rural England. He has a love affair with rustic cooking, just the way our great-grandmothers used to do. In his kitchen he wants organic produce, healthy fish, beef from grass-fed cows, and cage free chickens. In other words, he does it Agi Style and chooses the best for himself and his family. Jamie also tries to convey to the masses the importance of going back to our roots through his various TV shows and books he’s published.

I own a couple of those. I’ve also been known to stalk the above-mentioned CHEF online (Youtube, Apple podcast, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook…) to suck out more tips and culinary techniques HE NEEDS ME TO KNOW.

I want to start this BRAND NEW BABY YEAR 2010 with a recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver that I spotted on his TV show called “Jamie at Home”. He made those crispy and sticky CHICKEN THIGHS WITH POTATOES AND TOMATOES* I later recreated on my own stove. Not only is it an ideal comfort food (just wait till your teeth sink into the tender and juicy thighs), but also it’s packed with fireworks of flavors (the sweet and tart tomatoes with basil). It is a painting bursting with colors on a plate. It is an invitation sent to SPRING to hurry over. It is also silly cheap, aha!

Today, you be inspired. Get yourself those few elements and bring out the inner artist:

–       6 chicken thighs (boned, skin on, ideally free range and organic)

–       1-1.5 lbs potato medley

–       1 pound heirloom cherry tomatoes (medley of colors)

–       red wine vinegar, a splash or two

–       fresh basil, a bunch

–       sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

–       good olive oil

Clean the potatoes and cook them whole in a pot filled with boiling water seasoned with salt.

Sprinkle a few drops of olive oil all over the chicken, then bang-bang with salt and pepper, and cut each thigh into 3 strips. Toss them onto a sizzling hot sauté pan and stir-fry on high heat for about 5 minutes on each side until almost cooked. Make sure the pan is not overcrowded and each of the guys has enough room to kick around. If need be, cook the meat in two batches.

Wash the tomatoes and toss into a bowl. Boil some water and pour it over the tomatoes, then drain after about 2 minutes. This little trick will allow you to easily remove the skins and expose the sweet flesh of the fruit. Prick each tomato open with a sharp knife, gently season with salt and pepper and mix with fresh basil leaves torn into chunky scraps. Lots and lots of them!

Drain the potatoes and cut them roughly into halves and thirds. Toss them into a large baking dish along with the chicken thighs and tomatoes. Spread them flat-ish if possible.

In a separate cup or a small bowl whisk together about 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil with a few splashes of red wine vinegar, and a tad more of the salt and pepper bang-bang. Taste and add more olive oil and/or a touch of honey if the dressing is too tart. Pour over the meat and veggie mixture, stir around, and get the energy flowing and the small talk going. Into the oven they go. Bake in a preheated oven (400°F) for about 40 minutes, or until golden!

Taste…. AW-MAH-GAWD! That is so GOOOD! Pair your beautiful entrè with a simple green salad, dressed with a basic lemon vinaigrette, pop open a bottle of wine, sit at the table facing someone you give a damn about, and eat straight from the dish. And, oh, it’s hot, remember? So watch out. You’ll fight for the last bite, it’s a given.

* Possible Side Effects: overwhelming happiness, subconsciously letting the inner monkey off the leash, jeans button popping, uncontrollable LOL and consequently sprinting water/wine through the nostrils, food coma, money savings, orgasmic satisfaction.

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