Spinach and basil and chive...that sounds like a folk song, doesn't it? I'm in a gardening mode today. Or rather, a picking mode. The garden is starting to produce, and there's nothing that beats the taste of veggies that are two minutes from the garden to the stove! At the moment, the last batch of rhubarb is on the kitchen counter waiting to me to do something about it, and beautiful green spinach leaves are rinsing in cold water.
I have to admit that my husband does most of the gardening. I do have my own favorite things that I take care of, in addition to the flower beds. Mint grows along the base of the stone wall where it's nice and moist. It's been thriving there for forty years, and I'm not about to disturb it! My chives grow in the flower bed next to the patio off the kitchen. Last year it seemed the echinacea had crowded them out, but they've made a comeback this spring.
The rest of my herbs I prefer to grow in pots on the patio wall. They grow well there, and they're right at hand when I want to cut a few leaves for supper. This year I'm trying globe basil instead of the other type, which seems to get leggy. The leaves are smaller but plentiful, and the aroma is delightful. Greek oregano shares a large pot with the basil, and so far they seem to be co-existing nicely. I also have a pot of sage, which I love for the scent. I throw a bit into almost any meat or fish dish, and it's also nice chopped up in olive oil for bruschetta. Cilantro is a new addition to my little collection. We've begun to enjoy a number of Mexican dishes, although my versions are probably very Americanized. So I thought I'd try the cilantro, and maybe even make some of my own salsa once the tomatoes come in.
I tend to use the fresh herbs for almost anything, but one of my favorites when I also have spinach is a Stuffed Chicken Breast. Here's how I do it for two people:
For filling: mix together about a half cup of bleu cheese or feta cheese with a generous handful of chopped spinach. Add finely chopped chives, basil and oregano to taste and mix thoroughly. If you like cheddar cheese, a tablespoon of grated cheddar can be added, but don't overwhelm the taste of the other cheese.
Cut a large boneless chicken breast horizontally, but not all the way through, so that you can open it. Put the filling on one side, fold the other side back over the filling, and secure the edges with wooden toothpicks. Dust each side lightly with flour, salt and pepper. Brown on both sides in about a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. When it's nicely browned, add a tablespoon or two of water, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for about twenty minutes or until done in the center.
About 5 minutes before the chicken is finished, make the sauce. Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small pan and stir in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. When it bubbles, slowly pour in about a cup of orange juice, stirring until thick and clear.
Remove the chicken to a plate, top with some fresh spinach leaves, and pour the orange sauce over it. Delicious!