PERRYSBURG — Leah Rochester has created a basic recipe for chicken and turned it into a work of art.
“This is one of my favorite things to make,” she said about her Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Chicken. “One day I looked in the ‘fridge and threw this together.”
The recipe is versatile. Add-ons could include red onion, sweet onion, mushrooms,or asparagus during the first step. Kale or spinach can be placed on top of the cooked chicken and sauce after the final step; just cover the pot and let wilt.
It can also be served with different types of pasta, couscous or mashed potatoes. She used linguine for this interview and served kale on the side.
It takes about 15 minutes to put together.
For Lent, Rochester made it with salmon and penne pasta.
The base is garlic, sun dried tomatoes and basil. Put paprika in the sauce to add a little heat.
Husband Daniel said that Rochester first made the chicken dish in January.
“It’s kind of a nice recipe. It’s a good base and then you can add different sides and spice it up,” he said.
The day of this interview was the couple’s third anniversary.
“He still likes me,” Rochester said. “I feed him. It helps.”
She said she knew a lot of basics when they got married, but cooking was trial by fire the first year.
The Fremont St. Joe High School graduate lived with Daniel in Athens, Ohio, before moving back to Perrysburg in July. Daniel was a medical student at Ohio University and is now studying at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo.
Rochester, who is 24, said she used to make ramen and mac and cheese when she was 12.
“I didn’t know that you could actually over-cook noodles, so I’d leave them on the stove for 45 minutes thinking it was fine. It wasn’t fine,” she said. “I learned quick.”
Rochester recalled one of her first cooking innovations, while making chili in middle school.
“It’s really good with root beer in it. Just a splash or two.”
She said her mom cooked when she was a kid.
“I learned just by watching her. I’d ask her a few questions sometimes but there wasn’t ever a set-down class.”
She doesn’t think she makes anything her mom makes but does love her lasagna and her desserts.
Rochester works at Huntington National Bank in Toledo.
“I love cooking. It’s one of the things I really look forward to it most nights when I come home.”
The couple agree her best recipe is fajitas — mostly because Daniel makes amazing guacamole, she said.
Cooking is a lot of fun since it is different all the time, she said.
Baking is more of a science, Rochester said, and she likes it because it’s just following the steps.
“It’s almost like doing a puzzle. Follow directions and eventually everything will work out.”
She has branched out by making a shawarma bowl, chicken masala and roast lamb for Easter.
Rochester does most of her cooking from scratch, and has planters with basil, cilantro and lavender on the porch.
Last fall she had success with saffron.