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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sausage and Spinach Tortelloni



Sausage and Spinach Tortelloni

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I use my homemade version)
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
8 ounces raw spinach, steamed and minced (yields about 5 ounces cooked; you can substitute frozen)
12 to 16 ounces refrigerated cheese tortelloni** (see note)

Method

Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium high heat. Add sausage and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, breaking the meat into chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add onion to the pan and saute until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute.

Add tomato sauce, water, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and spinach and stir until well combined. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add tortelloni and cook for another 2 minutes, until heated through. Serve.

NOTES

This recipe was another happy accident. I was trying a new soup recipe from my friend Amy and though it called for tortellini, I bought the much larger tortelloni instead. I'm cheap, you see. The "ini" is $4-$5 for a 9-ounce bag, but Costco had a 3-pound bag of the "oni" for $10. I figured it would be fine - and it was, taste-wise, but not size-wise. Tortelloni is not soup spoon friendly.

So what to do with the rest of it? Make it into a one-pot pasta of course. This is very similar to my pasta bake in flavor and ingredients, and I love them both equally for different reasons. This dish... a bite of sausage, a piece of tortelloni with that savory cheese inside, spinach, herbs, and a light tomato sauce draped over everything. It's perfect - and ready in 25 minutes. What could be better?

**As for the pasta: I got that 3-pound bag by luck, and split it into 1-pound portions, but I think the tortelloni is usually as expensive as its smaller counterpart and you are more likely to find it in 9-oz or 12-oz packages. A 12-oz portion should work fine in this recipe.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Slow Cooker Barbecue Beans



Slow Cooker Barbecue Beans
adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian

Ingredients

32 ounce package dried pinto beans
1 pound thick cut bacon, diced, cooked until crisp
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon New Mexican chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I use my homemade sauce)

Method

Pour beans into a large sieve or colander and rinse well. Pour rinsed beans into 6 quart slow cooker and cover with water by 2 inches. Place cover on and leave slow cooker OFF. Allow beans to soak overnight (no more than 12 hours).

Drain the soaked beans and rinse the slow cooker. Place the beans back into the slow cooker along with the onions, garlic, bacon, water, molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, chili powders, cumin, oregano, and pepper.

Cook on high for 10-12 hours until beans are tender. Add salt and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce; stir to incorporate.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 3 months.


NOTES

I made this recipe for Christmas lunch and knew immediately it was going down in the archives. First attempt at great barbecue beans and I hit the jackpot. Tangy, meaty, sweet, smoky, delicious - and easy to boot, since most of the cooking is hands off. What could be better?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peanut Butter Honey Banana Bread



Peanut Butter Honey Banana Bread
from Chow

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted, plus more for coating the pan
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup mashed very ripe banana (from about 3 medium bananas)
2/3 cup unsalted chunky natural peanut butter (or substitute 2/3 cup unsalted creamy peanut butter + 1 ounce chopped peanuts)
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk

Method

Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan with butter; set aside.

Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.

Place the measured butter and both sugars in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the eggs, banana, peanut butter, honey, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Add half of the reserved flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.

Add half of the milk and stir until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk, stirring until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake until the bread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 to 75 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pan and turn the bread out onto the rack to finish cooling. Once completely cooled, store it in an airtight container at room temperature.


NOTES

Do I even have to explain how good this is? Peanut butter + honey + banana. COME ON. I like mine warm with peanut butter or nutella, but I've been eating it the last few days plain and it's perfectly wonderful all on its own.

And I'm posting this as is for now, but I already foresee a "version with chocolate chips" update coming. Because obviously.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheddar Risotto



Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheddar Risotto

Ingredients

1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1-1/2 lb broccoli crowns, chopped into stems and florets
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock, heated
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Method

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a saucepan with a steamer. Add the broccoli to the steamer and cover; reduce heat to medium and let cook for 5 minutes, or until a broccoli floret can just be pierced by a fork. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Heat deep saucepan to medium high. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the pan and sauté until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion to the chicken fat in the pan. Sauté for 2 minutes, until just soft. Add in salt, pepper, and arborio rice and saute for 2 minutes more.

Reduce heat to medium low. Add wine, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until wine is nearly absorbed. Add in 1 cup chicken stock. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until stock is nearly absorbed, about 5 minutes. Keep adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring each time until the liquid is almost absorbed, about 3 minutes per 1/2 cup. After about 20 minutes, all the stock should be used and the rice should be tender (taste test a piece). If it isn't, add another 1/2 cup of water to the pan, stir until absorbed, and check again.

Stir in the reserved chicken and broccoli and toss to heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cheddar and stir through until melted. Let the risotto rest for a minute or two, to thicken, before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.

NOTES

Delicious, salty and savory from the cheese - but not overwhelmed by it, and easy as can be. Inspired by this Broccoli and Cheddar Risotto from my friend Sarah and using most of the method from my Chicken Marsala Risotto, this blend of ideas and techniques made for one heckuva weeknight meal. It only took one go at this for Steve and I to agree it needed to be in my permanent archive.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread



Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread
adapted from Chow

Ingredients

Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 2 medium oranges)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), melted and cooled slightly, plus more for coating the pan
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole cranberries, thawed if frozen, sliced in half
1/2 cup (2 oz) pecan chips

Glaze
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup orange juice

Method

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter; set aside.

Place the flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps. Add the orange juice, melted butter, egg, and vanilla and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in the cranberries and nuts, if using, until evenly distributed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, pushing it into the corners and smoothing the top. Bake for about one hour, or until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

When the bread has about 5 minutes cooking time left, bring 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup orange juice to boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Once removed from the oven, pierce the top of the hot loaf several time with a cooking chopstick (or small knife) without touching the bottom of the loaf in pan. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the loaf.

Cool for 30 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then turn bread out of pan and cool completely on rack.

NOTES

So damn addictive, this one. I am a major quick bread kick. It started with the basic Banana Bread, graduated to variations on that theme, then moved on to the fruit and nut ones. I am a sucker for easy baking, especially when it yields such delicious results.

Big kudos to Steve: the first loaf I made of this, it had no glaze. He suggested I do an orange sugar, the same as the lemon sugar that goes on my Blueberry Lemon Bread. GENIUS. It made it twice as amazing. Even better - since this bread recipe seems to solve the softness/cracking issue I have with THAT one, I have it in mind to redo that bread with this recipe's ratios. Trading one bits of a recipe for another's bits of a recipe to make the perfect result. Love that.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Banana Bread




Banana Bread
via Food Network

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

NOTES

Best. Ever. There is a reason the rating for this recipe sits firmly at 5 stars after hundreds and hundreds of reviews. It's simple yet flawless. I've made it three times in the past week with consistently awesome results.

You can add nuts if you wish, of course, but I have chosen to leave it as is for a base recipe. Perfect by itself, with coffee, or warmed with a bit of butter or smooth peanut butter on top.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sausage, Spinach and Pepperoni Pasta Bake


Sausage, Spinach, and Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Ingredients

8 ounces penne rigate
8 ounces Italian sausage
1 ounce pepperoni rounds, quartered
1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces spinach, steamed and finely chopped
4 ounces shredded mozzarella

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Set aside.

In the meantime, heat large deep skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and pepperoni. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, breaking the sausage into chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add onion and garlic to the pan and saute until onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, the reserved cup of pasta water (or 1 cup hot water), basil, oregano, salt, and spinach and stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella on top and toss through to mix, if desired.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve.

NOTES

This recipe was really a happy accident. A few months ago, I was trying to create something for the Saturdays Steve and I were hiking/working out on the deer lease, something that I could prep on Friday, store, then throw in the oven on Saturday when we got back. I happened very randomly to have a bag of pepperoni in the house and a small bag of mozzarella and thought this might be a good way to use them. And you know what? WE LOVED IT. We loved it so much I made it every weekend after for a couple of months. It is now a lifelong staple/favorite dinner. FYI: this probably serves four people, but after our 12-hour days working outdoors, we split this in two and devour it ourselves.

Also: I realize this is unusually light on the cheese for a baked pasta, but it is meant to be. I have a longtime recipe for lasagna (not posted) and one for hearty Baked Ziti, both with ricotta, parmesan, and loads of mozzarella, and we love them both, but this pasta bake is meant to be something different - and we absolutely love it just as it is. I hope you do too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thai Green Curry Chicken



Thai Green Curry Chicken

Ingredients

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, divided
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Thai bird’s eye chiles, seeded and minced
2 ounces (1/2 jar) Thai Kitchen green curry paste
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
1 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced thin or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small sweet onion, sliced
1 bell pepper (I use half red, half green), cored and sliced
1 medium green zucchini, chopped
8 oz broccoli, stems and florets, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1 bunch Thai basil, chopped

Method

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and Thai chiles to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add green curry paste, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes to release the flavors of the paste. Pour in the coconut milk, 1 cup water and fish sauce. Stir, bring to a strong, bubbly simmer over medium heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate large skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add chicken to the pan and cook until browned, but not cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add sliced onions and bell pepper and cook until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked through, another 4 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and pour curry sauce into the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Stir to combine and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add a little water if it seems too thick, or allow to bubble longer if it seems too thin.

While the curry is simmering, bring 1 cup of water to boil in a large pot with a steamer insert. Pour in the broccoli and zucchini, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let steam for 5 minutes, until tender (pierce with a fork to test). Drain and add the broccoli and zucchini to the curry.

Stir in the scallions and Thai basil. Remove from heat and serve immediately over white or brown jasmine rice.

NOTES

Tweaked to perfection. Steve and I are mad about this curry, a dish that has been a long time coming.

When I first attempted Thai green curry chicken, I thought it would be just like making my Thai Red Curry Chicken, but with the paste swapped out. Wrong! The flavor profile is so different, it required an entirely different set of vegetables to balance it out - and less water, too. Hence, this ended up being one of those recipes that took a half dozen attempts before getting it to a point that I considered blog-worthy - and I love that. I love doing it over and over until it is exactly what I want it to be, for my permanent reference. In my opinion, it is worth the work.

And now I have another Thai meal in my small Thai repertoire. Hooray!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pasta alla Norcina


Pasta alla Norcina

Ingredients

12 ounces small shaped pasta (e.g., medium shells, penne, orecchiette)
16 ounces ground pork
Kosher salt
Black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon olive oil
16 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced or finely chopped
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup water
1 ounce fresh grated parmesan
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Method

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt and add pasta. Cook until al dente (about 10 minutes). Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pork in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, half the garlic, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary and nutmeg to pork and mix by hand until well combined.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in large deep skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add pork and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes, breaking the sausage into chunks as it browns. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to bowl, add half and half, and set aside.

Add mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and another 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in water, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in sausage/half-and-half mixture and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in parmesan until smooth. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, along with the parsley and lemon juice, and toss well to coat.

Before serving, adjust consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional cheese, black pepper, or red pepper flakes, as desired.


NOTES

Steve and I first saw this recipe on an episode of America's Test Kitchen and immediately felt we had to try it. The only problem was... well, sometimes ATK can be a bit, um, fussy. It's one of the reasons I love them, really, but sometimes they go a little overboard and end up making a big production out of something that really should be very straightforward. I personally feel this is one of those times.

This is a dish Italian grandmothers cooked and they didn't add baking soda to the pork or use a food processor for the mushrooms or cook the sausage in a large patty, only to slice it on a cutting board later. Too much fuss. So. I changed their method to suit my typical m.o.: simple and quick. I also changed the ingredient ratios to suit my other m.o.: much lower-calorie but still filling - and I think my version is phenomenal, if I do say so myself.

Don't let the minimal ingredient list fool you, folks. This is one of the most intensely-flavored dishes I have ever made. We were blown away at first bite. Steve could not stop mm'ing and oh'ing and yelling about it at the table - to the point that it was almost comical. Give it a try. You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chicken and Vegetable Coconut Curry


Chicken and Vegetable Coconut Curry
adapted from Very Culinary

Ingredients

1-1/4 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 cup julienned or chopped carrots
8 ounces snow peas, ends trimmed, large ones cut in half
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (8 ounce) pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 15-ounce can light coconut milk

Method

In a large nonstick pan, heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Add onion, bell pepper, carrots, snow peas, ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt and red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice and cornstarch until dissolved. Add the mixture, along with the pineapple chunks, coconut milk, and reserved chicken to the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened; stir gently.

Serve over jasmine rice with extra red pepper flakes or Sriracha on the side.

NOTES

This is MAGNIFICENT. I never really thought about blending Indian curry powder with coconut milk, which I tend to associate with Thai curries, but holy wow. Steve and I both flipped for this. Flipped, I tell ya!

It's been a while (my archive indicates eight months) since I was able to add another stir fry or curry to my permanent repertoire and I'm thrilled. I owe you one, Amy!