Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Eggplant Rollatini

March 24, 2019

It’s been a long week and weekend, y’all.  A lot going on and not a lot of sleep.  And my hands are starting to show it.  I’ve cut my fingers and knuckles with a knife; on a can lid; and on a box grater.  Geez Louise.  Still, Sundays are for cooking (and running, and laundry, and dog walking, and dog treat baking).  It’s a little chilly out at night still, so something warm and cheesy sounded right, but not too heavy.  I had an eggplant left from last week’s shopping so the decision was made.  Eggplant lasagna, the cuter way.

The thing about making lasagna is that I’m never sure if it’s going to hold together when it’s cut.  If you make rollatini, you don’t have that problem.  It’s perfect for thinly sliced eggplant, but you can do it with regular lasagna noodles too.  Instead of layering all the elements you put them on one end of the eggplant slice and roll it up.  A little sauce and cheese on top and you’re done.  Perfectly proportioned.

My confession for tonight is that I just didn’t have it in me to make the sauce.  It’s not hard, but it does take a little chopping and some stirring and some time.  Not tonight.  I’m grateful for a jar sauce as good as Rao’s.  It’s not cheap as jar sauces go, but absolutely worth it if you can make it fit your budget.  I also used dried herbs instead of fresh in the ricotta.  Que sera sera.  Here’s the thing.  Use the best ingredients you can, always, and be a little pickier in the one or two items that make a big difference in your dish.  I used good cheeses, so I’ll give myself credit for that.

I’ll also give myself credit for planning ahead.  I had a late afternoon meeting which broke up the day a little awkwardly.  I opted to prepare the eggplant early and finish everything when I got home.  Good call.  The eggplant prep takes about an hour and then the prep and cooking of the completed dish takes another 40-45 minutes.  You can definitely do the eggplant ahead of time, even a few days ahead of time.  So, if you work on your eggplant over the weekend, this becomes a pretty good weeknight dish.

A little bit about the eggplant.  Do not skip the step of salting and resting it.  That takes the bitterness out of an eggplant.  Mine was a little seedier (read older) than I like, so not much to be done about that, but I did salt and rest it to give myself a fighting chance.  Also, you want the sliced to be thin so that they’ll roll easily, but not so thin that they fall apart and all the yummy stuff comes out of the middle.  If your eggplant is a little on the large/old side and you feel like the peel is a little tough, or you just don’t like the peel, you can cut it off.  You’ll just have to be super careful when you roll the slices since there won’t really be anything holding them together.

These are so elegant when they’re done.  You could easily serve one per person as an appetizer or 2-3 per person as a main dish.

So, how was it?  Pretty dang good.  The ricotta filling was amazing.  Good parmesan matters here.  And I was right that some of the eggplant was too seedy.  The seeds have a  slightly unpleasant texture.  Still, I got the wonderful flavors of warm tomatoes and cheese, but I don’t feel too full.  No food coma here.  Good thing, the weekend isn’t over yet and I still have laundry to do!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 1 large eggplant, thinly sliced longways
  • 1 C ricotta
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan
  • 2 t basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C tomato sauce
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced

Here’s what you do:

For the eggplant:

  • Lay the slices out on a towel in a single layer.  Salt on both sides.

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  • Cover with another towel and let rest 30 minutes. Weight with a cutting board (optional)

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  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil
  • Bake in 350 degree oven 25 minutes
  • Stack the slices to keep the moisture in.  Set aside.

For the filling:

  • Combine ricotta, parmesan, basil, oregano in a small bowl

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To assemble:

  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Coat the bottom of a baking dish with tomato sauce (reserve some for the top)
  • Spoon 1-2 T of the ricotta onto one end of the eggplant
  • Add a little tomato sauce

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  • Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish

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  • Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and the fresh mozzarella

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  • Bake 20-25 minutes

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Vegetable Drawer Pasta Friday

January 18, 2019

The plan is 10 miles in the morning so it’s Pasta Friday.  The plan is also to leave town on Sunday so it’s empty the fridge time.  I’ve been out two nights this week so there’s a fair amount still in the vegetable drawer and I pulled a bunch of it out to throw in my linguine.  The result?  Meh.  On one hand, pasta is always good, especially if you’re on a weight loss plan.  On the other, being at the mercy of vegetable drawer leftovers rarely results in greatness.

What did I have in the drawer you ask?  Broccoli slaw, broccoli crowns, matchstick carrots, roasted eggplant slices (left from the pizza), a few mushrooms, and a bunch of tiny tomatoes.  I selected the eggplant, mushrooms and tomatoes for the pasta, plus some onion, garlic, mozzarella, and spices from Penzey’s.  All good choices.  So why meh?  Everything in the pasta is on the mellow and sweet side. There’s no punch.  I might have been better off to pull some artichoke hearts out of the cabinet and swap out the mushrooms for those.  Hindsight is 20/20 of course.

I learned something else tonight too.  Ok, I didn’t so much learn it as I was reminded of it.  A “serving” of pasta is a lot smaller than I’d like to believe.

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Overall, I’m going to call tonight a success.  I used up a bunch of vegetables instead of throwing them out.  I observed Pasta Friday without blowing out my healthy choices for today.

Risotto

January 1, 2019

I love risotto.  This recipe is the risotto version of cacio e pepe, a wonderfully simple pasta with cheese and pepper.  The nice thing about that is you can top it with anything you want.  And the topping for the leftovers can be completely different than whatever you chose for the original dish.

I know a lot of people are intimidated by risotto because it takes so long to make and all of that time is active time.  You can’t really do anything else for about 45 minutes. I find that kind of zen.  You’re just stirring and adding liquid and stirring.  If you’re lucky, you’re probably drinking a little wine too.  Here’s the thing.  Risotto is the perfect food for dinner parties!

Yes, it violates every dinner party hosting rule that says you should serve food that can be done ahead so that you’re not tied to the kitchen when your guests arrive.  The flaw in that logic is that we all know that everyone ends up hanging out in the kitchen anyway!  So, everyone can hang out in the kitchen while you’re stirring and you won’t miss a thing.  Another thing that makes it the perfect dinner party food is that it’s really hard to mess it up.  You just keep adding liquid a little at a time until it’s done.  It’s easy to taste along the way and see how it’s doing.  And if it gets a little bit over done, it’s still good!  Finally, if you start with a basic risotto it’s super easy to alter the toppings to accommodate whatever dietary restrictions your guests bring to the table.  Awesome.

So, what’s the key to risotto?  Make sure that the broth is very warm.  You don’t want to lower the temperature of the risotto pot when you add the broth.  If you do it won’t absorb like it’s supposed to.  And stir, stir, stir.  It’s not an aggressive stir.  It’s slow and meditative.  Enjoy the time.

Here’s what you need to serve 4:

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  • 4 C broth, heated in a pot (chicken, vegetable, beef, seafood, whatever goes with your add-ins)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 C arborio rice
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 2/3 C Parmesan cheese
  • salt and black pepper
  • chopped parsley
  • roasted shrimp (or whatever you choose for the top)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat olive oil in a wide pan
  • Saute onion and garlic until soft, 3-4 minutes
  • Add arborio rice to pot and stir so the grains are coated in oil

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  • Add wine, stir until liquid is almost absorbed
  • Add broth 1/2 C at a time, stirring after each addition until liquid is almost absorbed
  • When the rice is cooked to al dente, stir in Parmesan, salt and pepper

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  • Serve with parsley and top with protein / vegetables of your choice

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Some possible combinations:

  • Beef broth and mushrooms
  • Vegetable broth and asparagus
  • Vegetable broth with zucchini and corn
  • Chicken broth with chicken and spinach

I could have eaten this risotto without anything on top and been completely happy, but the roasted shrimp made it fancy.  A good choice for New Year’s Eve.  Later in the week I’ll add some vegetables instead and enjoy it just as much!

Snow Day Lasagna Soup

December 9, 2018

It’s been too long!  I’ve done some cooking, some traveling, some eating out in the meantime.  But today is a snow day, which means kitchen time and binge-watching tv.  And, of course, taking video of the puppy’s first snow.  I love days like this!

An ad for something called “Instant Pot Lasagna Soup” came across my news feed last week.  I don’t have an Instant Pot.  I feel no need for one.  There was a link to a slow cooker version.  Getting closer.  But on a snow day, I don’t need a hands off solution.  I’m here.  I have time to stir.  And in this case, that’s the only difference between the slow cooker version and the stove top soup pot version.  The stirring.

How do you make a soup version of lasagna?  Basically, you make the goopy filling you’d make for a regular lasagna and add a bunch of liquid to it.  Soup.  The great thing about it is that the filling part can be anything you want. I used a combination of sausage, beef, and turkey in this one.  If you’d usually make a vegetarian lasagna, by all means, do that. Sub in veggie crumbles instead of the meat. This would be great with zucchini and mushrooms.  And what’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to fall apart when you cut it.  It’s supposed to be soupy!

Now, let’s talk noodles.  Lots of options here too.  What kind of noodles?  I decided to use lasagna noodles broken into pieces.  You could use rotini or radiatore or baby shells, whatever.  You can cook them in the soup.  You can cook them ahead of time and add them to the pot.  You can cook them and portion them into individual bowls.  What you need to consider is your leftovers plan.  If you’re sure you won’t have leftovers, cook the noodles in the soup.  They’ll take on the flavor of the soup.  If you’re mostly sure you won’t have leftovers, but then again maybe, cook the noodles separately and add them to the pot. They’ll take on some of the soup liquid.  Beware that the noodles in the leftovers might be a little mushy.  If you’ve planned for leftovers, cook the noodles separately and put them in individual bowls.  You can either cook all the noodles you’ll need and just store them separately or you can cook fresh ones each time you have leftovers.

This stuff looks, tastes, and smells amazing.  Coming in from playing in the snow to this aroma is a gift.  Truly.  But I noticed that I didn’t have any vegetables.  And since I’m still not convinced that lettuce won’t jump up and kill me at any moment (Google romaine and e coli if you want more info on that), I decided to add some kale to the pot.  I got some end of season lacinato kale at the farmers’ market yesterday so I chopped and added most of the bunch to the pot.  If you’re going to add a hardy green to the pot, just make sure the soup is at a solid simmer.  You want the greens to cook, not just wilt.  If you’re using a softer leaf like spinach, a wilt will do just fine.

Hey now, you’re saying, the best part of a lasagna is the cheesy goodness!  Worry not.  You have a lot of options in the cheese department too.  You can add a dollop of ricotta to the bottom of each bowl before you ladle the soup in.  You can (and should) top each bowl with mozzarella and Parmesan.  Or both!  In this case I used SausageCraft Della Nonna sausage, which has some cheese mixed right into the sausage.  Yummmm.  If you want to make it extra special, use oven safe crocks so you can brown the mozzarella in the broiler before serving!

If you don’t have a lasagna recipe that you’re already using, feel free to follow this one.  This will make 4-6 servings.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb each, italian sausage, ground beef, and ground turkey
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 oz) or pint jar peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 C dry red wine (save the rest for dinner!)
  • 1-2 t dried oregano
  • 1-2 t dried basil
  • 2-3 C stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

Here’s what you do:

  • In a medium pot, cook the pasta; set aside

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  • In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil until it shimmers
  • Add the onion and garlic
  • Cook until the onion is soft
  • Add the meat; cook until it’s browned

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  • Stir in the tomato paste

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  • Stir in the tomatoes, wine and spices

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At this point what you’ve got is lasagna filling.

  • Add the stock

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Now it’s soup!

  • Bring to a simmer
  • Cover the pot and cook 30-60 minutes
  • Increase the heat to achieve a low boil
  • Add the kale

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  • Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Add pasta to each bowl; ladle soup over the noodles
  • Add some mozzarella and parmesan

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How was it?

First, it’s exactly as advertised.  It’s lasagna in a bowl!  Nothing to complain about there.  I really like the broken lasagna noodles. My advice – leave the pieces big enough that you really notice them.  It’s much more like lasagna that way.  And as delightful as the mozzarella is, it sticks to the spoon as much as anything.  I don’t like having to scrape it off with my teeth. I might try the leftovers with just the parmesan.  Or maybe cubes of fresh mozzarella instead.

If you’re going to add a kale or chard, add some extra stock or water as well. The greens soak up a lot of liquid and you still want it to be like soup.  I really liked the kale addition though.  I’d definitely do that again.

I’m super happy with my meat choices.  The beef and turkey were very lean and the sausage added just enough fat to add amazing flavor and a silky texture to the broth.  So, not a lot of fat and I didn’t miss it.  But I think I’d be happy with a vegetarian version too.

All in all, the perfect snow day dinner!  All the food groups; warm and comfort-y;  and only a bowl to wash.  I might even have some in the morning after the snow shoveling!

Hello Fresh “Orzotto”

November 16, 2018

This is meal 2 out of my gifted box – orzotto.  Risotto made with orzo instead of arborio rice.  Clever.

Honestly this is one of the more complicated recipes I’ve made from a Hello Fresh box.  It’s not too difficult, just a lot of cook, remove from pot, set aside.  Requires the stove top and the oven.  And they miss a little on the instructions.  Once you add the liquid (chicken stock concentrate, water and crushed tomatoes) to the orzo it says to bring it to a boil and stir occasionally.  It’s a pretty thick liquid and there’s not a ton of it.  The orzo starts to stick to the bottom of the pot pretty quickly.  I had to stir constantly and vigorously to keep it from sticking.  I also had to add about 1/2 C extra water to get the orzo to cook all the way to al dente.

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The topping is slightly strange.  Shredded mozzarella and panko.  You spread it over the top and put it under the boiler.  Because it’s bread crumbs and a fat you end up with a crust.  Lovely on casseroles, but odd on something that’s supposed to be risotto-esque.  I’d leave that off.  Maybe sprinkle the cheese on top of eat serving.  Leave the panko for another day.

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One more thing.  This is WAY more than 2 servings, as the pasta dishes often are.  To give you a sense, this is a 3 1/2 Q dutch oven.  It’s filled about 1/3 of the way, so nearly a quart of this stuff.  I’m not a small girl and portion control is one of my issues, still, I can’t imagine what Hello Fresh thinks is four servings of this!

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Overall, it’s a good dish. The italian seasoning is a little strong.  It calls for added butter  you don’t need.  What is up with these people and their extra butter?  The chicken sausage is very flavorful, which is good because grated zucchini has no taste at all.  The tomatoes have no salt.  The chicken stock must be low in salt.  Taste before you top and stir some salt in to taste.

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese

November 2, 2018

If you’re interested in authentic Italian cooking in an American kitchen look no further than Marcella Hazan.  I got the recipe from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook, which I highly recommend.  The New York Times has kindly reprinted it here as it was the favorite Hazan recipe as named by NYT readers.

The first time I made this I didn’t exactly know what a proper bolognese was.  When you order a bolognese in a lot of US Italian restaurants, all they mean is a regular red sauce that has meat in it.  So, I was surprised when this came out much drier and not especially red.  But boy is it good.  And it should be.  It takes 4 hours to get this done, nose to tail.  It’s pretty active for the first hour and slightly less so for the next 3.  Definitely not a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of sauce.

If you’ve read this blog much, you’ve definitely heard me say that if the recipe is simple, the ingredients have to be the best you can find and afford.  That’s definitely true here.  I’m using Greenway Beef,  (see here to find out how I feel about that) and Homestead Creamery milk, and home canned Dodd’s Acres Farm tomatoes.

Let me pause here to note that of the three local farm providers listed above, two of them don’t exist anymore.  Farming is a hard life, especially in a country that chooses convenience over community.  If you’re lucky enough to have farms of one kind or another near you, and most of us are, please support them, directly and via farmers’ markets and via grocery stores that are smart enough to carry local items.  Mostly they treat their animals with respect and their workers and customers with kindness.  That’s something worth supporting.

Of course you should use a wine you’re delighted to drink.  You only need a cup for the recipe and you’ve got 3 hours before dinner, so enjoy!

The great thing about this recipe is that it really is easy.  If you can chop an onion, carrot and celery stalk and use a measuring cup, you’re pretty much there.  Just remember to pay attention to it.  If you don’t, all the liquid will simmer out and the rest will burn.  Set a timer if you’re planning to play piano or cycle laundry or throw the ball for the dog while you’re waiting for this to simmer. In the last 3 hours I stir about every 15 minutes.  If your stove doesn’t simmer quite as low as the recipe recommends, definitely check it more frequently.

Here’s what it looks like after the first hour of low simmering.  You can see that I’m going to have to add some water over the next two hours to keep it from turning to charcoal.  That’s as it should be.  Add 1/2 C at a time just to keep it from burning.  Just remember that all of the water has to cook out at the end.

TIP:  When I add water I turn the heat up and bring the sauce back to a simmer quickly and then turn it back to low.

Here’s what you need: see, not a lot

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  • tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  •  cup chopped celery
  •  cup chopped carrot
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
  •  Salt
  •  Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
  • 1 cup whole milk
  •  Whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

Here’s what you do: it’s easy, it just takes a long time

  • Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
  • Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
  • Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
  • Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface.
  • Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

At one hour: (assume this carries on for 2 more hours – add a little water, cook down, add a little water, cook down)

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It fascinates me that the carrots get super soft, but the hold their shape.  They add a beautiful sweetness to the sauce and no texture problem whatsoever.

This is what you’re looking for.  The liquid is gone and the fat is separating from the rest of the sauce.  Then you mix it all in and you end with this beautiful sauce.

You can make this ahead of time.  It keeps great in the fridge and it freezes well.  But, after you’ve spent half a day making it, you’re going to want to eat it right away.  Just so you know, the recipe recommends that you cook a pound of pasta to al dente and toss it with a tablespoon of butter before you mix in the bolognese.  And I did just that, only not a pound of pasta, just a few servings.  I’ll keep the rest for some day when I need something truly wonderful and don’t have the time or energy to create it.  Heaven in a bowl

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Dinner from the dregs: Spaghetti with Shrimp and Cilantro Pesto

October 19, 2018

Factor number one, I’m traveling (again) next week so once again there’s not much fresh food in the house.  Factor number two, tomorrow is my longest run in nearly a year – 13.1 miles.  Factor number 3, I’m way low on protein today.  Like shaky hands low.  All that adds up to pasta with a protein that had to come from the freezer.

A few things I keep in the house as staples for just such occasions of these:  pasta, frozen shrimp, frozen herb mixes and sauces.  If you make your own sauces you can freeze them in small bags or in ice cube trays.  I keep basil pesto, cilantro pesto, collard pesto, charmoula, and a few other things around to jazz up pasta, rice, chicken, seafood.  I’m out of frozen chopped vegetables, but they come in handy too.

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If you think you don’t like pesto, it might just be basil pesto that doesn’t work for you.  Experiment with other combinations and you might find something you like.  Generally speaking a pesto has an herb or leafy green, garlic, olive, a nut, Parmesan cheese.  Google has an endless number of recipes.  This might be the one I used for the Cilantro Pesto I had tonight, though with peanuts instead of almonds.

Not much else to say about this.  You can cook the shrimp in the pot with the pasta to save yourself a pan.  And them about 3 minutes before you expect the pasta to be done.

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Before you drain the pasta, dip out some of the pasta water.  That helps the pesto distribute a little more evenly.  Makes it a little saucy.   I threw a few diced onions in a pan to saute and added those at the end.   No reason except that I had them and they added a little sweetness to an otherwise salty dish.

What you see in the bowl is a solid two servings, even for me.

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Pasta Friday: Fridge Leftovers and Fettuccine in Lemon Parmesan Sauce

August 24, 2018

Half Marathon training is starting in earnest tomorrow.  5 miles.  Not long, but not throwaway either.  Time to get my pasta Fridays started.  Settle in folks, we’ll be carb-ing on Fridays until November.  Since tonight is the first pasta Friday in a while I wasn’t really prepared.  I usually have some half bags, clamshells or baggies of veggies in the fridge though, so that’s a good start.  Tonight I also had a half a lemon, 1/4 C of cream and a single chicken breast to go with some spinach, carrots and a red onion.  Dinner!

I decided to try poaching the chicken.  Let me just say this isn’t easy and I didn’t do it well.  It takes patience.  I’m not always long on patience.  Poaching chicken is not boiling chicken in fancy water.  You’re supposed to start everything cold and simmer it really low until it’s just done.  All I can say is that I started with cold chicken stock; a clove of garlic; a slice of lemon; and a chicken breast that I’d already sliced to speed things up.  Mistake one.  I should have left it whole and sliced it when it was done.  I brought it to a very low simmer.  It didn’t look like it was enough so I turned up the heat just a little.  Mistake two.  While my attention was on the rest of dinner, the stock started to boil.  So, I had boiled chicken. I turned it down immediately, but it was too late.  Not terrible, but tougher than I would have liked.

Nothing mysterious about the vegetables. A little olive oil heated until it shimmered and in go the carrots and onions.  Let them saute until they start to brown.  Don’t add any salt yet.  If you add salt now you’ll pull the water out of the vegetables and they’ll steam more than saute.  After 2-3 minutes add some minced garlic.  One clove is plenty.

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Now it’s time for the sauce.  This is a super light cream sauce and you can make it in the pan with the veggies.  Bonus points for not dirtying another pan!  Just push the vegetables to the side to give yourself a little room to work.  Here’s what you need, plus some of the poaching liquid or pasta water if you didn’t poach the chicken:

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Melt the butter and stir in about 1 T of flour.  Keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn.  Then add just a little cream.  Keep stirring. It will thicken quickly and you’ll have a paste.  That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Stir in some poaching liquid so now you have a sauce consistency.  It will be thinner than you’ll end up with.  Add the rest of the cream and bring the sauce to bubble.  It will thicken some.  Add a little more poaching liquid.  You’ll need it to cook the spinach.

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Stir the spinach in until it wilts.  Let the sauce bubble and thicken a little more.  Stir in about 1/2 C of grated parmesan.  Add in the cooked pasta.  It works best if you use tongs to mix everything together.  Grate about 1/8 t nutmeg over the top along with freshly ground black pepper.

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Remove from the heat and squeeze half a lemon over the pan.  Add in the cooked chicken.

Enjoy!

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Goat Cheese and Fresh Tomato Pasta

August 9, 2018

International Vegetarian Week continues!  I had to take one of my precious pups to the vet for a biopsy today.  A little stressful.  Comfort food definitely on the menu tonight.  And something super easy with limited chopping and very few dishes, please.  I was worn out before I ever started tonight.

Pasta to the rescue.  At the farmers’ market last weekend I bought a lovely box of little heirloom tomatoes and some local goat cheese.  Dinner done, pretty much.  I did saute some minced garlic and sliced shallots because I had them.  A sweet or red onion would have done the trick as well.  I had some basil in my herb pot so I threw that in at the last minute.  One knife, one pot, one pan.  Beautiful.

The key to a goat cheese pasta is the pasta water.  You use some pasta water to melt the goat cheese and create the sauce.  The more starch the better in the pasta water.  So, boil your pasta in the smallest amount of water that you need to cover the pasta and make sure it has a little room to move around.  The less water, the more concentrated the starch will be.  That will help make the sauce feel like a sauce and not like watery goat cheese.  So, pour some of your pasta water in a cup before you pour it all down the drain!

Add the tomatoes at the end.  You want to toss them with the pasta long enough for them to get warm. If you add them too soon they’ll start to fall apart. The peels will separate and you’ll just have chunks of cooked tomatoes.  There are worse things, of course.  But these are such beautiful little tomatoes I want them to maintain their original form.

Did I meet the limited chopping criteria?  You be the judge.  I did quarter these tomatoes before I added them.

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Did I meet the comfort food criteria?  You bet.  Cheesy pasta always fits the bill when you need a little hug from your dinner.  And this is light enough with the fresh tomatoes that you get points for sophistication as well.  A pretty neat trick for comfort food!

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And it’s beautiful!  So that’s a bonus!

Linguine with Greens and Sausage

May 27, 2018

It’s Memorial Day Weekend!  For me, it’s the start to a whole week of staycation.  A time  for me to catch up on things, get the house in order, and exercise my creative brain – cooking, baking, gardening, sewing – heaven.  Often that means spending my evenings reading cookbooks.  Fortunately for me, more and more cookbooks these days have lovely stories as well as wonderful recipes.

I did a lot a running today:  running with dogs, running to the farmer’s market, running errands, making a grocery run.  So, I was pretty tired come dinner time.  I needed easy food.  Enter The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.  What I love about this cookbook is that it’s an introduction to ways of cooking, basic sauces, kitchen equipment, and how to put foods and flavors together.  Not fancy, but hasn’t failed me yet.

I had some lacinato kale left in the fridge that was holding up really well for being in the drawer for a week.  I had half an onion in the fridge.  I had sausage in the freezer.  (I always have sausage in the freezer).  Simple food.  Good food.  Really good food.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 bunch of lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (or whatever hardy green you have leftover)
  • 4 oz sausage cut into rounds, or crumbled (I used Della Nonna by Sausage Craft – it has cheese in it – yum!)
  • 1/2 onion sliced thin
  • 3-4 oz linguine (or whatever pasta you like; the recipe calls for fusili)
  • crushed red pepper

Here’s what you do:

  • Boil some water in a pasta pot; salt the water
  • Add the chopped kale, cook 6-8 minutes until the greens are tender
  • Drain into a bowl, reserving the water to cook the pasta in

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  • In a heavy bottomed pan, cook the sausage, set aside
  • Drain all but 1 t of the fat

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  • Add the onions and red pepper, cook until caramelized

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  • Deglaze the pan with a little white wine or water

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  • Simmer until slightly reduced
  • Cook the pasta in the greens water until al dente
  • Toss everything together

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Here’s how it turned out:

Food, more or less just heated up. I gave it an Intermediate rating just because it’s a bunch of cooking and setting aside and some pot swapping so not as straightforward as a lot of pasta dishes.  Tastes better than a lot of pasta dishes too!

All the pieces taste like themselves.  And together – magical.  It looks nice too.  Nothing fancy, but absolutely fit for guests, or not.  I’m looking forward to leftovers!

 

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