Taste of Home’s Sarah James shares her memories of Sunday dinners with her family and a recipe for how she’s making old traditions new again.
Growing up my boisterous family would come together on Sundays. We’d sit down to a table groaning under the weight of my Mom’s cooking, and for two hours we’d eat, drink and recreate our own version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Since moving away from home, I long for those Sunday dinners. I find myself missing my sister Mary sharing the complex intricacies of the universe while my sister Annie proclaims, once again, how much she loves her new husband. I miss my Dad, sitting like a king at the head of the table, surrounded by 5 Italian women, lamenting about how he never gets to eat fried chicken, “You girls dangle it in front of me then pull it away! It’s just not fair! I’ll never get my fried chicken.” It’s a scene scripted for television complete with witty banter, fast paced conversations and sibling rivalry that you can only get with four sisters.
What I miss most about those meals is my Mom’s cooking. Sunday would always be the night where she’d go all out. Meats would be smoked, pies would be made and potatoes would be carefully roasted, dressed with a drizzle of sweet olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. The house would smell of butter and garlic all day long, teasing us with the promise that tonight we’d be eating well.
I’ve since adopted this sacred tradition to my new life in Milwaukee. Every Sunday I pack up a bag and head over to my friend’s house. Together we move around the kitchen like ballerinas, preparing our own special Sunday dinner.
Our meal is a simple one but just as heartwarming. Two chicken breasts marinated in balsamic vinegar are smeared with a bold pesto then topped with summery tomatoes, oregano and creamy mozzarella cheese. Wild rice is piled high on the side, the tender grains mingling with the steaming hot broccoli.
We sit at the table with our plates and smile at this perfect meal. As we tuck in, we fall into an easy conversation catching up on the past week, gossiping childishly about boys and making plans for the week ahead.
Even though it’s a much smaller and quieter meal, the comfort and sense of belonging is still there – so is a feeling of excitement as I begin to make new traditions with a new kind of family.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tomatoes, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons pesto
2 slices of thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour balsamic vinegar into bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Place chicken breasts in bowl turning them over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in fridge for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine diced tomatoes, garlic, oregano and reserved balsamic vinegar in small bowl. Toss to coat. On a baking sheet, place chicken in oven and bake for 10 minutes or until barely pink in the middle. Remove chicken from oven, and smear chicken with 1 tablespoon of pesto each; top with tomatoes and cheese. Return chicken to oven and finish baking until cheese is melted and juices run clear.
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