Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creamy Pasta with Peas

This is the other of the two recipes I tried this week and really liked. I didn't realize it until now, but they are both from the Martha Stewart site. I find that site to have a ton of easy-to-make recipes, and it's a good source for family dinners. If I want to go a little fancier or use some more exotic ingredients, I will try other sites or one of my cookbooks, but for quick and easy the Martha Stewart recipes are really useful.

This particular recipe actually calls for a "kid" version and an "adult" version, with the former omitting the pine nuts and arugula. Why?!? My kids eat both of those things, and they do so because I've never made kid versions of any dish. They eat what the grownups eat at dinner, and as a result they don't need to have a kid version of this or any dish. To me, making kid versions of recipes just creates a false need for kid versions; any kid can eat things like pine nuts and arugula if you just expose them to it. But enough of my soapbox: here's the recipe (which my kids loved, by the way)

Creamy Pasta with Peas
serves 4

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 lb farfalle pasta
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen green peas
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 bunch (5 ounces) arugula, tough stems removed, chopped

  • -- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions; add peas 1 minute before end of cooking. Drain; return pasta and peas to pot.

  • -- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine cream and chicken broth; simmer until thickened slightly, 7 minutes. Stir in Parmesan until melted.

  • -- Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add to reserved pasta along with arugula; season with pepper. Toss to combine, and serve immediately.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Couscous

I can't believe it's been a year since I've last posted a recipe. It's not that I haven't been cooking -- I've actually found some great recipes and made some tasty dishes. I just haven't been "feeling it" with regard to blogging my recipes. Perhaps it's that back-to-school time of year, or the fact that I tried two new recipes this week that I thought were keepers, but I am feeling inspired today to post them. Both are great for weeknights because they don't take a lot of time or ingredients. I'll post the recipe for the roasted chicken thighs here, and the other one in a separate post.

This recipe for roasted chicken thighs is my own version of a recipe that I found on the Martha Stewart Everyday Food site. In her recipe, she cooks the couscous in water which is something I find in a lot of her recipes. I don't see the point in cooking things like rice or quinoa or couscous in water when using broth will give a dish so much more flavor. So, I made that change in the recipe; I also added carrots and different spices. I think this is one of those recipes that offers a lot of versatility. You could really spice it up with cayenne or curry powder. In the fall, it might be a great way to use root veggies like parsnips or some different kinds of squashes.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Couscous
(inspired by Martha Stewart Everyday Food)
serves 4-6

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 1 -2 arge carrots cut into rounds
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

    -- Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with rack in upper third.
  • -- Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and cumin; place, skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes.
  • -- Remove sheet from oven, and turn chicken, skin side up. Scatter zucchini and carrots around chicken, and season with salt and pepper; toss with pan juices. Return sheet to oven, and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes more.
  • -- Meanwhile, bring 1 1/4 cups chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, and stir in couscous.
  • -- Cover, and let stand until all the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in parsley, vinegar, roasted vegetables, and 2 tablespoons pan juices; season with salt and pepper.
  • -- Serve chicken with vegetables and couscous.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pasta with Steak and Arugula

Nothing like building a new house to keep you from blogging. Even in all the chaos that is my life right now, I have actually been cooking. Well, not much in the past few weeks as most of my kitchen paraphernalia is packed up in boxes. But, I've been saving some recipes that I've been meaning to post.

My hubby has what some might call a "sensitive stomach." In actuality, the poor guy has lately been suffering from reflux which really limits what he can eat. For instance, he should really stay away from onion, garlic, and tomatoes. We're Italian. I like to cook Italian food. How's this going to work? So, that takes an entire category of pasta sauces off the menu. Cream sauces, you say? Nope. He needs to avoid the heavy creams and fats of say an Alfredo or vodka sauce. Thus, I've been on the lookout for recipes with light sauces that don't rely on tomato as a base.

Of course, Giada came through for me with her recipe for Penne with Beef and Arugula. While I didn't follow her recipe precisely, I did use it as inspiration. The result was an incredibly easy meal that can be served hot or at room temperature, and would make a perfect potluck contribution. Giada's recipe called for a strip steak, but I have also used a skirt steak and tri-tip. In addition, I decreased or eliminated altogether some of the ingredients in her recipe.

Pasta with Steak and Arugula
(inspired by Giada di Laurentiis)
Serves 4

1 pound steak (strip, skirt or flank)
1 whole, peeled garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound penne
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (you could use a little less than 1/4 cup here)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for steak)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (plus more for steak)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 cups chopped fresh baby arugula
Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

-- Season steak with salt and pepper.
-- Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat and add steak and garlic clove.
-- Let steak cook about 5-7 minutes per side, depending on your desired doneness. Remove clove if it starts to overcook.
-- Once steak is finished, remove from skillet and let sit about five minutes. Once rested, slice it thinly.

-- Cook penne in boiling, salted water.
-- While pasta is cooking, add vinegar, olive oil, mustard, basil, salt and pepper to mixing bowl and whisk to mix.
-- When penne is al dente, reserve about 1/3 cup of the pasta water, and drain.
-- In a large bowl, toss the pasta with about 1/2 of the oil and vinegar mixture, and half of the pasta water.
-- Add the arugula and steak, and more dressing and water as needed.
-- Season with salt and pepper.
-- Add fresh Parmigiano cheese as desired.

Notice, that I used a whole clove of garlic instead of mincing it, per Giada's version. Since I am trying to protect R's stomach, I kept the garlic whole which simply infuses some of the flavor and aroma of garlic without actually having to eat it.

This recipe is also a great way to use left over steak. If you are going to do this, just slice the steak into bite-sized strips, and warm up in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Just keep it in the skillet long enough to warm it through, but not cook it any further.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Simply Yummy Pork

I've actually had this recipe for a few months, and keep meaning to post it, but as you can tell, I've been neglecting my blog for a while. Somehow real life has been taking up too much of my time! Anyway, I love this meal because it is sooo easy, and sooo quick; the other night, I did all the prep and cooking in less than 45 minutes. Even better, wrapping the tenderloin in prosciutto keeps the pork nice and tender which is great for me since I tend to have a propensity for overcooking pork. Probably the best part is that the kids will eat it!

I found this recipe on Real Simple, and was reminded that I really like that magazine as source for weeknight meals. I always forget about it, and then when I re-discover it, I am so happy I did. The recipe calls for red Bartlett pears, but I've just always used the green ones. I am not sure that it really makes a difference which pears you use -- I've always been happy with the results. Either way, do make sure that you use firm pears so that they don't turn to mush during the roasting process. And, I've used both fresh thyme and dried thyme. If you have the fresh on hand, use it -- but if not, the dried thyme will work too.

Prosciutto-wrapped Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Pears
(courtesy of Real Simple Magazine online)
Serves 4

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled and cut lengthwise into wedges
2 firm red Bartlett pears, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 piece of pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1/4 lb of thinly sliced prosciutto
1 tablespoon of honey

-- Heat oven to 425F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, pears, thyme, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.
-- Meanwhile wrap the pork in the prosciutto, slightly overlapping the slices to cover the pork completely.
-- Push the vegetables to the sides of the baking sheet, place the pork in the center, and drizzle the pork with honey.
-- Roast until the pork is cooked through, and the pears and potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Let pork rest about 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with sweet potatoes and pears.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Afghan Stew

I don't have a lot of experience with Afghan cuisine except to know that it's awfully tasty, so when I found a recipe for Afghan lamb stew with spinach, I knew I had to try it. To be frank, I am not sure how authentic that recipe really is, but I only used it as a starting point anyway. I actually made a fair amount of changes to it, and I believe I came out with a more flavorful result. For instance, I replaced the water with beef broth and added red wine. I also dusted the lamb with flour for a richer flavor. In addition, I added more spices than were called for in the recipe.

One of the the things that I really like about making things like stews is that you generally have a lot of room to experiment and can easily adjust the taste of the dish with the kind and quantity of spices you use. However, it also means that I often toss things into my dishes without really measuring them. So when you check out my recipe, keep in mind that the quantities are just estimates. You should definitely feel free to adjust the seasoning according to your own tastes and what you already have in your spice cabinet.

Afghan Lamb Stew
(serves 4)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cubed lamb stew meat
flour for coating meat
salt and pepper to taste
dash of beef grill seasoning
2 cups beef broth
1/3 cup dry red wine
cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
dash of Old Bay seasoning (optional)
3 cups chopped chard
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

-- Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat.
-- Add the onion and cook until transparent.
-- Increase heat to medium, and add garlic and lamb. Cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned on the outside.
-- Pour in the broth, wine, and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, and Old Bay.
-- Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low.
-- Cover the pan, and continue cooking for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

-- Add chard and cilantro to the meat mixture, and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
-- Serve over rice.

The original recipe calls for the stew to be served over basmati rice, but I didn't happen to have any in my pantry, so I just used some jasmine rice -- almost any rice will do. I always use broth instead of water to cook rice, so this time I used beef broth to complement the flavors of the stew.

I happen to like my food really spicy (I have an asbestos tongue), but since I am also feeding the husband and kids, I kept it toned down a little. You can easily crank up the spice by using more cayenne or Old Bay. If you make it too spicy, you can dilute it by adding more of the liquid, or even adding a little sugar. If you end up with too much liquid, you can just thicken it up by adding some cornstarch.

The original recipe calls for spinach, but I happened to have two big beautiful heads of chard in my kitchen, so I used that instead. I think that you could use just about any leafy green in this recipe.

The result was really tasty and could be tweaked in so many different ways. I think that next time I might add a little cinnamon and see what that does to the taste. You could also add diced tomatoes for an even heartier stew. I might also drop a dollop of yogurt on top when serving (this would also help cut some of the heat if you've got a spicy dish).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Apple and Cheddar Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I have to admit that I am addicted to my iPhone. As I told one friend, it has everything I've been missing all these years. One of reasons I love it is all of the different apps that I can use on it -- and not just apps to kill time, but things that actually increase my productivity and efficiency! Among my favorites is the Dinner Spinner from Allrecipes.com. I use it a lot when I am trying to figure out what to cook for dinner. Today I knew that I had to use some chicken breast, so I pulled out my trusty iPhone, typed it into the Dinner Spinner search engine, and the very first result that came up was for chicken breast stuffed with apples and cheddar. It sounded yummy, and bonus! -- I had all of the ingredients already in my kitchen. The original recipe can be found here, but I made a few changes and tweaks. This is my version of the recipe.

Apple and Cheddar Stuffed Chicken Breasts
(serves 2-4)

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon panko
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 /2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon Colman's English dry mustard powder
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

-- Combine apple, cheese, panko, curry powder, allspice, and dry mustard. Set aside.
-- Flatten chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness.
-- Divide apple mixture between chicken breasts, and roll up each breast. Secure with toothpicks.

-- Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brown stuffed chicken breasts.
-- Add wine and 1/4 cup of chicken broth.
-- Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

-- Transfer chicken to a serving platter.
-- Combine 1 tablespoon of chicken broth and cornstarch; stir into juices in pan.
-- Cook and stir until thickened. Pour gravy over chicken and serve.

This was really easy and didn't take long at all. While the chicken was cooking, I roasted some fingerling potatoes, and sauteed some sugar snap peas. It turned out to be a tasty meal and the house smelled delicious when my husband came home from work. The chicken recipe is one I think could be very flexible -- you could choose a variety of different spices to add to the apple mixture like cinnamon or nutmeg or cayenne. And as my friend Tracy says, pork makes everything taste better, so next time I might also add some prosciutto or bacon to the apple mixture.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Grilled Peach Salad

I haven't been doing much cooking this summer. We spent most of June on vacation, so there wasn't much opportunity to cook. But, we're back in town and enjoying all the produce that summer brings with it. Last week I got some gorgeous peaches in our CSA delivery and wanted to use them for more than just a snack or dessert. So, I put together this salad last night -- it was shamefully easy and quick. In order to bring out even more sweetness in the peaches, I grilled them using my stove top grill pan. I certainly could have used my outdoor grill, but I wasn't about to fire that thing up just for a few peach halves. In this case, the grill pan did the trick. In addition, I added sliced chicken breast to make it a meal, but you use another protein like shrimp or even finely sliced beef instead. And I chose watercress only because I like the peppery taste, but you certainly use a different green, or a combination of them.

And this is one of those recipes for which I didn't really use defined quantities. It's a salad, so you can just use as much or as little of the ingredients as you like.

Grilled Peach Salad
(serves 2-4)

2-3 peaches, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbs canola oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb bocconcini, each ball halved (or other fresh mozzarella cut into bite-sized pieces)
1-2 tbs lemon olive oil (or fresh lemon juice from one lemon plus 1-2 tbs olive oil)

-- Brush butter over both sides of peach halves, place on grill pan heated to medium-high heat. Cook peaches until grill marks appear, about 5-6 minutes per side
-- Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper
-- Heat canola oil over medium high heat, and add chicken breasts. Cook chicken breasts until just opaque
-- Remove peaches from heat, and slice into quarters
-- Remove chicken from heat, and slice thinly
-- Add watercress, bocconcini, and chicken to bowl. Season with lemon olive oil*, salt, pepper, and serve with peach slices on top.

*If you don't have the lemon olive oil, just whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil until emulsified, then add with salt and pepper to salad.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is it Pasta? Is it a Salad? Is it a Pasta Salad?

My husband and I are leaving on a tropical vacation in a couple of weeks, and are just vain enough to want to make sure we'll look decent in our bathing suits.  So, we've been trying to eat lighter for the past few weeks.  Now, I know what you're thinking:  pasta isn't the way to lose weight.  But, this dish can take as little or as much pasta as you want to add.  That's why I am not sure whether to call it a salad or a pasta.  If you decide to use a pound of pasta, I guess it's really a pasta dish.  But if you want to keep it on the lighter side, you could use just a 1/2 pound of pasta and add more zucchini, spinach and/or chicken breast.   I'll write it out with the quantities I used the other night.  It was enough to be dinner for two adults and two kids.  

Zucchini, Chicken, and Pasta Salad
(serves 2-4)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
2-3 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup, chopped fresh spinach
2 scallions, minced
1/2 pound pasta (you can use long pasta like linguine, or short pasta like penne)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

-- Add pasta to pot of boiling, salted water.
-- While pasta cooks, whisk together the 1/4 cup of olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
-- Add zucchini, and toss to coat.  Let rest while cooking the chicken

-- In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  
-- Cook chicken until golden on both sides, and cooked through.
-- Remove chicken from skillet and slice into thin pieces.

-- Once pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and add to zucchini mixture.  Toss with another tablespoon of olive oil to make sure pasta doesn't get sticky.  
-- Add chicken, spinach, scallions, Parmesan to bowl.  Mix and serve warm or let cool and serve at room temperature.  

What I like about this recipe is that it is so versatile and lends itself to additions and substitutions.  For instance, instead of using regular olive oil and a lemon, I used my favorite Meyer lemon infused olive oil.  If you want more veggies, you could include more spinach or zucchini.  You could even add sweet English peas or yellow crookneck squash as well.  You can adjust the amount of pasta depending on whether you're looking for a one-dish meal, or a side.  You can eat it warm or at room temperature.  And, I am pretty sure that it would make a good dish for a potluck.  In fact, I have one coming up next week -- I think I know what I'll bring!