CHICKEN STRIPS WITH GARLIC BUTTER If you're just getting into cooking and learning the basics, start out with very simple recipes, says Pierre Franey: `People can get confused and upset if they try difficult ones. Get sure of yourself first.' Franey suggested this recipe as a good one for novices to try. 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 2 tablespoons dried 2 tablespoons flour 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 ripe plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and diced 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander or basil 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken breasts in half crosswise, then lengthwise into strips 1/2 inch wide.
Blend well salt and pepper, oregano, and the flour in a flat dish.
Add the chicken pieces in one layer. Stir to season, keeping each strip separate.
Heat the butter and oil over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in one layer.
Add the chicken pieces; cook and stir until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Add the coriander and lime juice, continue cooking and blend well. Serve immediately.
LENTIL SALAD `Lentils are about as carefree a vegetable as nature ever invented,' Mr. Franey writes. `Once they dry out in the fields and are harvested and packaged for the consumer, the real work and worry are over. It's hard to make them rot or spoil. Kept in a cool, dry place, they can outlast any of us.' 1/2 pound dried green lentils, washed and picked over 1 bay leaf 1 clove garlic, peeled 1 small onion, studded with 1 clove Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 3 sprigs fresh parsley 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme) 4 tablespoons finely chopped onions 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic 1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 3 tablespoons olive oil
Put the prepared lentils in a saucepan. Add three cups of water, bay leaf, garlic, onion, and salt and pepper. Tie parsley and thyme sprigs (if using) together in a bundle and add to the liquid. Bring the lentils to a boil and cook, partially covered, until tender - about 20 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook. The lentils must be tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat, remove the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and parsley bundle and discard. Drain the lentils well.
Transfer lentils to a large bowl. Add chopped onions, chopped parsley, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper and toss gently to blend well.
Serves 4 to 8 (as a side dish).
FETTUCCINE WITH BLUE CHEESE AND ASPARAGUS `This is an extremely simple dish,' Franey writes, `but with blue cheese, which is growing in popularity, and asparagus as main players, it makes quite a statement.' 1 1/4 pounds fresh asparagus Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 3/4 pound imported fettuccine 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons butter 4 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic 1/4 pound domestic blue cheese, crumbled 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Scrape and trim the asparagus. Slice the spears on the diagonal into 1/2-inch lengths.
Bring 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a kettle. Add fettuccine. Boil very gently for 9 minutes. Do not overcook. The pasta should be al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain pasta.
Heat olive oil and butter in a kettle and add the asparagus, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the fettuccine, blue cheese, basil, the reserved water, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well over medium heat. Serve immediately with Parmesan cheese on the side.