Who: Gina Gathings, 58, of St. Petersburg, owner of Gina's Art and Science of Skincare
What: Chicken With Sun-dried Tomatoes
About the recipe: "Many years ago, I catered parties, and at that time ... I had over a thousand cookbooks," Gathings said. In the late '80s, she discovered in one of those cookbooks a recipe for chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, and she has been making it ever since. She still remembers the first night she cooked it for her husband.
" 'Oh, this is everything. This is the best,' " she remembers him saying.
Over the years, Gathings has experimented with the recipe. To add color, she sometimes serves it over spinach fettuccine. For extra flavor, she browns mushrooms in butter, sets them aside and adds them to the cooked chicken and pureed sauce. Every time, it's a success. Plus, it's "fast enough that it can be done on a weeknight after work," Gathings said.
Gathings, who describes herself as a "right-brained girl," loves the arts. She did ballroom dancing for 20 years, played the guitar, painted and did flower arranging. Cooking is yet another way to express her creative side.
"I have this wonderful husband who loves everything I make," she said. "It's such a pleasure to cook for someone like that."
On the side: a caprese salad with layered tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil
Tips: Although the recipe calls for red pepper flakes, you can leave them out (or reduce the quantity) for less of a kick. To make sure the chicken breasts all cook at the same pace, before cooking, Gathings covers them with plastic wrap and pounds them down with a meat mallet to make them uniform. She cooks them in a stainless steel pan to give them a golden brown color — which usually takes about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Favorite thing to cook with: Fresh herbs, because they can turn any dish into something restaurant-quality. "I almost always pick up a package of the fresh herbs," she said. "Thyme and tarragon go beautifully with chicken as well."
Emily Young, Times correspondent
Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please email the information to [email protected] with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.