We arrived to the coast just the night before. We walked through a tranquil village to the restaurant for dinner. Not many people around, barely a car passed us. It was a short, pleasurable walk. The air was dense with smells of the sea and the sun-drenched soil. The sunset was gorgeous. It felt good to be back at last.
The dinner we had at Restaurant Badi was fantastic: marinated sardines and anchovies, a small heap of the Venetian classic sarde in saor, then two bowls of crisp fresh salad and a whole, on the bone, perfectly grilled sea bream. With it we had some very good Istrian, local, red wine and after the meal we shared a glass of pelinkovac, a delicious bitter brandy made with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).
Then, the next morning we headed to the farmers’ market in Umag. It’s one of those not too cute but secluded places that are lively and colourful. Its stalls were full of gleaming vegetables, some late cherries, apricots and early peaches, among other produce. We bought some very very sweet datterino tomatoes and with that purchase our lunch deal was set in stone. We were going to make the oven-baked chicken, following this recipe by littlespicejar.com I found via the kitchn‘s instagram feed.
I was more than happy to dirty only one pan to prepare a feast of a lunch. (Disclaimer: we did produce one more pot that needed to be cleaned because we decided to cook some potatoes as a side dish. The potatoes in Istria are delicious; I like to think it’s due to the soil.)
When we sat down to dinner, the sun was already low, the shadows were long and slim. The sky was light blue with a hint of golden (I might have been too romanticly inclined) and another beautiful day was slowly coming to an end. (I simply love June: the days seem to be never-ending.) By the time we finished our godly meal, the swallows were flying around the village church bell, I could just spot them dancing in the warm air up and down in circles, as if playing tag.
Oven-baked Chicken with Tomatoes
Adapted from littlespicejar.com
INGREDIENTS: TO MARINADE THE CHICKEN: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or wine vinegar) 2 cloves minced garlic 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or powdered paprika (adjust to taste) a few sprigs of dried thyme 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs, as you prefer) FOR THE TOMATOES: as many halved cherry tomatoes as you like (I estimate I had a good half a kilo) 2 tablespoons melted butter 1 tablespoon aged apple vinegar (or aceto balamico)s 1 tablespoon honey 6 large chopped basil leaves FOR FINAL TOUCH: a ball of mozzarella, sliced Add all the marinade ingredients to the baking dish, shuffle everything well to get the chicken pieces well covered. Leave for at least 15 minutes to rest (I left it in the refrigerator for 4 hours). Heat the oven to 220 degrees C. Remove the dish with the chicken from the refrigerator, push the chicken pieces to the side of the dish, one on one (you want to leave it at one dirty dish, don't you), or remove them temporarily to a plate. In the free space of the dish assemble all the ingredients for the tomatoes, then arrange the chicken pieces on top, so that you have a bed of tomatoes on which the chicken pieces lie. Place the baking dish with the food onto the centre rack of your oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Add sliced mozzarella on top of chicken pieces, turn the heat up to the maximum and bake for another 5-10 minutes (or until the mozzarella has nicely melted over the edges of the chicken). Serving suggestion: Serve with a bowl of crisp early summer salad and with some boiled, quartered potatoes for they are a great vessel for soaking up the heavenly sauce.