When you think of the word “rustic”, how does it make you feel? I really love the word. It’s a descriptor that implies a simple elegance and unpretentious comfort. It evokes a feeling of coziness for me, of something still close to a natural state that hasn’t been too fooled around with, too prettied up. “Rustic” seems satiating and hearty, full of satisfaction and wonderfully at ease with being exactly what it is, take it or leave it. It’s not ashamed of any imperfections, or of being a little rough around the edges and not dainty. It’s perfectly comfortable with being a bit messy and implores me to do the same, as well. “Rustic” nurtures and invites, and gives permission to relax the standards and enjoy with abandon. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of my favorite styles of food and of decor, the one that speaks to me the most.
I have a feeling that my partiality for rustic things stems from them somehow reminding me of simpler times. Wooden tables and wooden doors and floors represent a rustic craftsmanship; and English wildflower gardens, so beautifully and colorfully tangled, look as if they belong in front of country cottages, the kind you’d find in a child’s storybook. Little crackling fires in stone hearths look so very inviting to warm up next to; and bowls of steaming, saucy food beckon for slices of thick bread to be used as utensils in place of a fork or spoon. There’s an essence of romanticism that can be found in something rustic, and I feel kindred to it.
Rustic is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. It’s elemental and forgiving, not easily messed up, and insists on being taken in “as is”—what you see is what you get. It comes as golden roasted chicken drizzled with a fresh herb sauce over creamy, Tuscan-style white beans, all sopped up with bits of bread–a little, simple, fresh Campari tomato on the side. It’s timeless and classic; it’s from the heart.
What does the word “rustic” evoke in you?
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Golden Roasted Chicken drizzled with Fresh Herb Sauce over Creamy, Tuscan-Style White Beans
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(Serves about 4)
Roasted Chicken ingredients:
4 split chicken breasts (bone-in and with skin)
4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
½ teaspoon salt, plus a pinch, divided use
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus a pinch, divided use
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus ½ teaspoon, divided use
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
4 small campari tomatoes, each cut into 4 wedges for garnish
4 thick slices of French baguette, toasted
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
-Prepare a garlic paste for the chicken by combining the garlic, the pinch of salt and the pinch of pepper, the ½ teaspoon of olive oil, the lemon zest and juice in a small dish or ramekin; place the chicken breasts onto the foil lined baking sheet, and with your finger, gently separate the skin from the meat, just enough to add equal amounts of the garlic paste under the skins of each breast; next, sprinkle over top of the breasts equal amounts of the ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper, the paprika, Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and drizzle on the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; place the breasts into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (*while chicken roasts, prepare the Creamy White Beans and the Fresh Herb Sauce, below); once chicken is roasted, remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes; once the chicken is cool enough to handle, gently pull and remove the little ribs and bones from each of the chicken breasts, and then slice each of the 4 breasts into equal slices. (To serve, see below.)
Creamy, Tuscan-Style White Beans ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
4 (15 ounce) cans small, white beans
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon black pepper
• Small pinch salt
1½ cups chicken stock, hot
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
-In a medium pot set over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the garlic; once aromatic, add the white beans, and stir to combine; next, add the Italian seasoning, the black pepper, the small pinch of salt and the hot chicken stock, and stir to combine; bring the beans to the boil, then reduce the heat to low/medium-low, and allow the beans to gently simmer uncovered for about 20-22 minutes, or until creamy and thickened, stirring occasionally; once the beans are creamy and thickened, turn the heat off and add the lemon zest and juice, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil (feel free to add a bit more stock or even water, and olive oil if you feel that the beans need to be “loosened” up a bit); cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
Fresh Herb Sauce ingredients:
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup basil, finely chopped
½ teaspoon lemon zest
3 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup olive oil
-In a small bowl, combine all ingredients through the black pepper, and gently whisk to combine; slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and continue to gently whisk until well incorporated; cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to use.
-Spoon equal portions of the Creamy, Tuscan-Style White Beans onto the center of your plates creating a “bed”, and lay 1 sliced Roasted Chicken Breast down onto the bed of beans; add the 4 campari tomato wedges on the side, and drizzle a couple of good tablespoons of the Fresh Herb Sauce over the Roasted Chicken and the campari tomatoes; garnish with a slice of the toasted French baguette to scoop up all the goodies.