Summer cooking is lazy cooking, as it should be. Delicious and easy. Slice a few tomatoes and a little basil from the garden, drizzle a little balsamic and olive oil, and top it all off with some oozing burrata. Dinner is served! Between colorful salads and some meat or fish on the grill, that’s all I need to keep going, summer night after summer night. I want freshness and color, and ease.
But even in summer time, I occasionally still return to my winter lover, the crockpot. On busy nights, the crockpot still beats a slice and dice the bounty of summer meal. Paired with some warm pita pockets or some fresh tortillas, supplemented with farmer’s market fruit and vegetables, anything from the crockpot can still feel fresh and summer like. I’m not talking about 3-ingredient dump cooking, with store-bought Italian dressing. That type of crockpot cooking always leaves me with a chemical taste in my mouth. Crockpot cooking is so easy, why not use 10 ingredients instead, nothing made in a factory, and make something truly delicious?
There are a thousand Italian Dressing chicken recipes on the web, but I wasn’t able to find a single one with homemade dressing. I’m as much of a fan of dump cooking as any other busy mom, but I want to know what’s going into my crockpot. My Italian Dressing is homemade and easy, and every bite finishes as delicious as it started.
You haven’t seen much of me here on the blog this summer, and it’s a good thing really. This summer, I vowed to not disappear into the kids’ sports and camp needs. I spent most of last summer with my hands at 2 and 10 on my minivan wheel, crying behind the windshield as the miles on my odometer ticked up. Not this year. Thanks to Gladiator Tennis and a novel writing class at Story Studio, I’ve wedged room into the family schedule to keep up with my passions. And the crockpot is helping keep everyone fed and happy, everyone, including me.
Tonight, while I tear up the court playing a singles match, the kids will be piling shredded italian dressing chicken into fresh tortillas with a summer veggie orzo on the side.
- 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ¾ cups of olive oil
- ¼ cups of parmesan, grated
- 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons of mustard (1 tablespoon if fresh)
- 1 teaspoon of oregano (3 teaspoons if fresh)
- 1 teaspoon of thyme (3 teaspoons if fresh)
- In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, mustard, salt, oregano, thyme, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat vigorously with a fork blended and slightly frothy. Taste. Add more salt if needed.
- Toss in the parmesan and blend some more.
- Cut the onion and layer on the bottom of a crockpot.
- Layer the chicken thighs on top.
- Pour the oil and vinegar mixture on top, making sure to scrape up every last bit of parmesan.
- Cook on high for at least 3 hours. Tastes great warm and cold, depending on your mood.
I’ll also include here the recipe for the summer veggie orzo. In this case, we were out of orzo, so the picture shows tiny bits of vermicelli. Meant for chicken noodle soup, but almost as good as orzo with this Italian dressing crockpot chicken!
- 1 cup of pasta
- 1 cup of asparagus spears
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Boil water for pasta. Cook pasta. Set aside, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Heat a medium frying pan on medium heat. Add the olive oil. After 30 seconds, add the garlic, the lemon zest, and the asparagus spears. Saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the cherry tomatoes. Turn up the heat to high. Saute for another 3-4 minutes, moving the pan dramatically every minute or so. Toss all those beautiful colors. The veggies are done when the tomatoes have just begun to pucker up.
- Toss the cooked pasta into the pan, along with ¼ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Toss everything to combine.
- Serve the Italian Dressing Chicken on top of this colorful bed.