Tuesday, April 24, 2012
with thanks to Ezra Pound Cake
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces macaroni
1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the beef, onions and garlic, breaking apart the meat as you go, until the onions are soft and the meat cooked through. Drain off grease (or not if it's lean enough) and return pan to heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the beef broth, mustard, ketchup, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Add to meat. Bring the meat mixture to a boil, then add macaroni.
Reduce the heat to medium, and cover. Continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pasta is tender. (Note: my medium always seems a bit high on my stove, so I checked it a couple of times during cooking and stirred to make sure the pasta wasn't sticking to the bottom - which it was. Keep an eye on it.)
When the macaroni is done, sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Stir until melted, about 1 minute, and serve immediately.
Holy moly, people. If everyone discovered how easy and cheap and low-cal it was to make this shockingly good meal from scratch, I swear the boxed "helper" meals would gather dust on the shelves.
I was absolutely floored by this dish and by how much depth of flavor it had for so few ingredients. This will be a lifelong fixture in my household.
Make it make it make it.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
1 pound ziti
1 pound baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Splash of water
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage (I use my homemade version)
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups reserved pasta water
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus a bit more for sprinkling on top
12 ounces (3 cups) finely shredded mozzarella
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta per package directions. Drain over a large bowl to reserve the pasta water. Set pasta and water aside.
Set a large deep skillet over medium heat. Put the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper in the pan along with just a splash of water. Cover and let the spinach steam and wilt. Uncover to stir occasionally, to incorporate the salt and pepper and to make sure no stray leaves are drying up against the side of the pan. Once it is all wilted, remove the spinach to a cutting board. Use paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to soak up as much liquid from the spinach as possible (you may need to let it cool for a few minutes). Finely chop the spinach and set it aside.
In the same deep skillet, still over medium heat, add the sausage and saute, breaking into small chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Scoop the sausage out of the pan into a separate bowl, leaving the bottom of the pan coated with fat. Add the onion and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic, salt, oregano, thyme, basil and crushed red pepper flakes to the pan. Stir for about 1 minute until everything is nice and fragrant, then add the crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of reserved pasta water and the cooked sausage. Bring just to a bubble, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover, add another cup of the pasta water and simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
(Note: If your pasta is stuck together at this point, put it back in a colander and pour the remaining pasta water over it. It should become unstuck. One of the best kitchen tips I ever learned!)
In a large bowl (or in the pot you cooked the pasta in), combine the pasta with the spinach, ricotta and 1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pour in the meat sauce and stir gently until thoroughly combined.
In a 9x13 pan, spoon in about 1/3 of the pasta mixture, then top with 1 cup of finely shredded mozzarella. Do this twice more, layer of pasta, layer of mozzarella, then finish by grating a little bit more Parm-Reg over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until all the cheese has melted and the top has just slightly crisped.
Let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.
Spectacular. Period. Just a couple of cooking notes:
1) This should really be called baked pasta since I have made it with penne in these particular photos, rigatoni a couple of other times, ziti when I can find it. Use whatcha got.
2) You may notice that there is no olive oil in this recipe. You shouldn't need any. The grease remaining after cooking the sausage, about 1 1/2 tablespoons, is plenty for cooking the onion and garlic and so full of flavor as it is. Pork fat is my favorite cooking medium and woefully underrated, I think.
3) You can play with this as you see fit, in terms of what meats or greens you put in. I strongly prefer sausage and spinach, though. Wait, let me rephrase: I have a mad, passionate, long-standing love affair with sausage and spinach and I feel like one without the other on pizza or in pasta is a damn tragedy. Ya. That's better.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Thai Red Curry Chicken
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 red curry paste
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped into small pieces
4 scallions, chopped
1 bunch Thai basil, chopped
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 red curry paste, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes to release the flavors of the paste. Pour in the coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups 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 3 minutes. Add sliced onions, bell pepper and carrots and cook until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked through, another 5 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. Add scallions and simmer for 2 minutes longer. Stir in Thai basil until wilted.
Serve immediately over jasmine rice.
You'd think as much as I love Thai food, I would have made curry at home before now. Nope. This was the first one. I waited so long because all these years, from bites here and there at restaurants, Steve said he didn't like Thai curry paste or coconut milk. However, as all of us know, the more variety a person eats over time, the broader their palate becomes. I figured it was time to try.
Wowza. To say this was a massive hit is an understatement. Massive. He went positively nuts for it and so did I. Instant keeper, and great for weeknight cooking to boot.
Couple of cooking notes:
1) I'd like to make my own paste sometime but for now, Thai Kitchen brand is pure and wonderful and gets a big thumbs up from me.
2) Steve and I both like curries where the sauce can be thoroughly blended with the rice, but with no "soupiness." That means I did not use additional water beyond the 1 1/2 cups in the initial simmer and it was perfect for us. Adjust as you see fit.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
with massive thanks to Rebecca
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (do not substitute quick or instant or steel cut oats)
1/2 cup raw sugar (you can substitute granulated or brown sugar if necessary.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk (you can substitute low fat or skim)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the 2 tablespoons butter in an 8-inch x 8-inch or 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan. Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and let the butter melt as the oven heats. (Don’t forget it’s in there. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven or the butter may scorch.)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, pour over the dry ingredients and mix together with a sturdy spoon or spatula until everything is evenly combined and wet. Scrape into the pan with the melted butter and stir until most of the butter is incorporated.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
I know what you're probably thinking: "a pan of oatmeal? yawn..." You don't know. This recipe has - no exaggeration - changed the way Steve and I eat and function Monday through Friday.
Every workday morning, we both open up a container of this stuff, pour in about 1/3 cup of water, heat in the microwave for 1 minute, drop in some dried blueberries, dried cranberries or sliced banana, put the lid back on for a few minutes to soften the fruit and voila. Instant moments of heaven right in the middle of the work morning.
Coffee and a banana used to suffice, but no longer. Now, because of this oatmeal, I can never go without a real breakfast again. It's beyond delicious and nourishing and satisfying. Truly. You really have no idea by looking, but seriously. I just finished making it for the sixth week in a row and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
Baked oatmeal forever!
P.S. Of course, you can make this on a Saturday or Sunday morning and serve it immediately with milk, cream, fruit, nuts, etc. No doubt I am missing out by not having done so yet...
(Update: This Sunday will be Baked Oatmeal Round 12 and it's still one of the best things about our weekdays. I have also started adding a half cup of slivered almonds to the dry ingredients, reflected in the ingredient list above, and somehow, unbelievably, it has been made even better by the addition.)