Shrimp Fettucine

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From a fantastic vintage cookbook I grew up with, Jambalaya: The Official Cookbook of the Junior League of New Orleans (1981). When you can find it used, it is well worth the couple of dollars. It occasionally pops up on that Amazon page or eBay. The recipes are all classics, plus many Creole and Cajun dishes you’ve never heard of.  Even without pictures, they’ll make you drool just reading the dish names.

This was an easy 20 minute dinner and a fairly plain and simple one for the cookbook, but last night I happened to have everything on the list at home, even the shrimp. I omitted the mushrooms because I’m the only one in my house that loves them. If I had added them I think shiitakes would have been ideal, as their flavor and shape holds up well in cooking and they produce very little liquid. Lastly, I think a sprinkle of dry white wine or vermouth would make this more dynamic. I served it with a wedge of lemon and tossed some deep fried shallots on there – blammo. Perfection.

You’ll have to unbutton your jeans when you’re done eating.

5 green onions, chopped
2 c sliced mushrooms (I omitted this)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter (American sticks are 8 tbsp – 1/2 c)
2 tbsp oil (I omitted this)
1 lb peeled, deveined, raw shrimp (I only had 1/2 lb)
2 tsp salt
8 oz fettucine (I used closer to 10 oz)
3/4 c grated Romano cheese
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

In a large skillet, saute green onions, mushrooms, and garlic in 1/2 a stick of butter and oil. Add shrimp and saute until pink. Pour off excess liquid. Season with salt (I also added pepper). Cover and keep warm.

Cook noodles in salted, boiling water. Drain. In a saucepan, melt remaining 1/2 stick of butter. Add noodles, cheeses, and cream. Mix well and combine with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and toss. Serve immediately.

*Note: They aren’t kidding about serving immediately. It pales in texture every moment that goes by.

Macaroni & Cheese

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Caution: macaroni and cheese is not that appealing close up and under bright lighting.

If there is something every human should master, it’s a handmade macaroni and cheese. My general rules for a great mac are that it must:

– use a bechamel sauce base,
– have goat cheese for a little tanginess,
– have more than one kind of cheese,
– must have something of the onion family in it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I still buy Annie’s boxed mac ‘n cheese from time to time for Nevan – but if you’re going to make it from scratch, you may as well take your time and go for gold.

My method is a bit of combination of two of Martha Stewart’s mac ‘n cheese recipes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, but mostly it’s the “Macaroni and Four Cheeses” recipe. Here is my little version with proportions halved from her recipes. Serves 5-6 people.

4.5 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing casserole dish
2.5 cups milk
1/4 plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups grated extra sharp or sharp cheddar
1/2 cup Gruyere, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese
10 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced OR 1 leek, white part minced
5 oz goat cheese
1/2 -3/4 lb your favorite mac ‘n cheese pasta
1 cup panko (optionally, you can make your own buttered breadcrumbs)

Optional:
1/2 cup blanched broccoli, run under cold water and chopped
1/4 cup diced turkey ham or bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

If you are using leeks instead of scallions, cook lightly in a little butter until soft and set aside. If using scallions, they do not need to be cooked.

Warm your milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture is thick and smooth. Whisking constantly, gradually add the warm milk, allowing a portion to absorb before adding more. Cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.Remove the white sauce from heat, add salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg.

While you are making the white sauce, boil your pasta half way in salted water, then rinse under cold water.

Gently stir in half of the cheeses into the white sauce. Fold in your scallions/leeks and optional broccoli and meat. Stir in the boiled pasta, then turn out into your prepared casserole dish. Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top, sprinkle remaining grated cheeses, and cover with panko.

Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Used the recipe exactly as found here.  I really like Claire Thomas.  I think her food has a simplicity that makes it doable, and yet everything is balanced and lovely.  D.Jones made fun of me when I told him we were having pasta with squash and potatoes.  I believe he said “Nice!  How about some starch with your starch?”  The truth is, we both ended up loving it.  The final splash of balsamic brings out all of the flavors and the basil…oh yum, the basil.  I love basil and this gave me an excuse to use an entire bunch of it.  Yum~

Roasted Vegetable Pasta
For 6
1 cup roasted butternut squash (1 inch chop)
1 cup roasted potatoes (yukon gold, 1 in ch chop)
1 cup roasted red onion (1 red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick circles)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 oz dry pasta
This is meant to be a left overs meal, but if you’re roasting your veg from scratch preheat your oven to 425 F.  Start with a cup and a half of each vegetables and rub with a heavy drizzle of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread out over a baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets to ensure that the the vegetables aren’t touching).  Roast for 25-45 minutes, depending on the vegetable (less time for red onion, more time for potatoes).  Halfway through roasting, flip the vegetables to make sure both sides are cooking evenly.  Once the vegetables are crisp at the edges, remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water per manufacturer’s instructions.  While the pasta cooks, heat up a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and then cherry tomatoes.  Let the tomatoes cook for about one minute, and then add the garlic.  Add the roasted vegetables, stirring to combine.  Add the basil and stir.   When the pasta is done, add it to the  sauté pan straight from the pot with a slotted spoon.  The residual water on the pasta will create a sauce.  Stir and finish with balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

 

How To: Tomato Sauce

I’m sure we’ve all heard that the BPA in the plastic liner of cans is bad for you – and apparently canned tomatoes are the one of the worst because of the acidity of the tomatoes. Once every few months, I try to be good and make a large batch of tomato sauce from scratch to portion and freeze. Spaghetti sounded good tonight, so that’s what I spent part of my afternoon doing.

Here are my two go-to tomato sauce recipes. The first one is inspired from Donna Hay’s Classic Tomato Sauce recipe (found in New Food Fast), but I’ve altered many parts of it and so I’m officially  (and very loosely) declaring it mine. It’s a nice fruity sauce that is pretty much all purpose. It may be a little light for something like lasagna, but anything else will go with it. This is the one I made today.

The second one is my dad’s go-to sauce, and is from The Classic Italian Cookbook. It’s a little bit of a sweet sauce, thanks to the butter, and is especially good with things like ravioli or tortellini, although you can use it with anything. I love this sauce not just for the flavor, but because it takes only a few ingredients and minimal effort.

1) Tomato Herb Sauce with Wine

12 large tomatoes or (4 1-lb cans peeled tomatoes lightly crushed, if you prefer canned)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup red wine (white will do if you don’t have red)
A large handful of chopped oregano, basil, marjoram, or thyme (or any combination of them, whatever you have)
A few sprinkles of dried, crushed red pepper flake (optional)
Sea salt and fresh pepper

You have two options here: you can opt to peel the tomatoes, or you can put them in the blender. The peeling approach leaves you with the option to make chunkier sauce, if desired. Some people really don’t like seeds in their sauce, so strain the tomatoes if that is how you like it.

To peel: Place whole tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for one minute. Drain and peel skins off and chop them up, reserving all liquids. It gets very wet so it’s best to chop them in a container like a casserole dish.

To blend: Halve your tomatoes and place in a large pot over medium heat. Turn over the tomatoes every once in a while until they are hot and start to fall apart. Place in a blender and puree (in batches if needed).

Heat oil in the pot and sauté onions and garlic over med-high heat until soft.

Add tomato, wine, herbs, red pepper flake, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Bring down to simmer for 30 minutes if using fresh tomatoes (20 minutes for canned). You want to reduce it to the consistency you like. Can be frozen for 4-5 months, or refrigerated for three days.

To make this base a delicious soup, add 2 cups of vegetable broth when adding tomatoes back to the pot. When done simmering, stir through an additional 1/3 cup chopped basil. Top with pepper and Parmesan. Can likewise be frozen.

2) Tomato Butter Sauce

6 servings

2 lbs fresh tomatoes
1/4 lb butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved or quartered
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

Cut tomatoes in half and place in a pot or large pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Take tomatoes out, purée, and put back in the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook at a slow simmer for 45 minutes uncovered. Season additionally if needed. You can remove the onion if you prefer, but it gets nice and soft in stewing and tastes good. I highly recommend not throwing it out.

Spaghetti with Anchovies, Dried Chili, and Pangritata

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From Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef Takes Off. Says it serves four (but for real? No way it’s only for four, that’s massive portions).

For the pangritata (breadcrumbs flavored up and fried, also sometimes called “poor man’s parmesan”):

1/2 c olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 good handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
7 oz fresh breadcrumbs (larger sized, not fine)
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lbs spaghetti
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
16 anchovy fillets (I used about 3/4 of this)
juice of two lemons
2 small dried red chillies, crumbled

First, make the pangritata. Put the olive oil in a hot, thick-bottomed pan. Add garlic, thyme, and breadcrumbs; they will fry and begin to toast. Stir for a couple of minutes until the breadcrumbs are really crisp and golden. Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper and drain on paper towels.

Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente. While it is cooking, put the oil and garlic in a pan and heat gently. As the garlic begins to soften, lay the anchovy fillets over the top. After a minute you will see them begin to melt. Squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle in the dried chillies. Toss in the drained spaghetti and coat it in the sauce. Taste a bit of pasta – it may need a little more lemon juice and a little extra seasoning. Serve straight away, sprinkled really generously with the pangritata.

Notes:

I halved this recipe in every way except I still went with two chillies and two cloves of garlic. I thought that came out perfectly. Also, I had cherry tomatoes laying around, so I halved and fried them along with the anchovies, and that was a great addition. Knowing how it tastes now, next time I will add capers as well.

The pangritata was really good. I was out of fresh thyme, but had a little fresh sage and rosemary in the fridge, so I chopped that up and used it instead – delicious. Pangritata is basically garlic bread croutons in your pasta. I made the breadcrumbs from some Como bread (which is a bit sour), and I think that gave them a great, stronger flavor.

Final Thoughts:

It looks boring, doesn’t it? If you don’t mind a little anchoviness, it’s so, so good. We both really liked it. It must be eaten hot to avoid an overly fishy flavor. Doubling the chili for the proportion was perfect for us, but a little bit more heat for Nevan than he cared for, so he opted to go with a salad instead. Perfect quick meal and I will make it again. Also, I’ll be making pangritata again for other things (and asking Dave “you like my tatas?”).

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Peasant’s Pasta

The only one who knows my secret is my husband. Until now. Here is it, my confession. I had no idea how to cook when I got married. None. I had a few dishes from my family under my belt, but let us not pretend it was anything that tasted especially appetizing or that was remotely healthy (think tuna casserole and macaroni and cheese). I could usually boil noodles. Usually. I could take sauce out of a can. We ate a lot of processed foods, but ate out even more. We spent SO much money. We also had portion sizes for people three times our size, or a baby elephant. In general, our eating was disordered and something needed to be done. 

Insert Rachel Ray in my life. Watching ’30 Minute Meals’, and buying every one of her cookbooks, taught me the basics. I now consider myself a pretty good home cook. Most of what I make is now completely edible, smells desirable, my son will eat without complaint, and is usually pretty healthy. Thanks to Rachel, I can also now do this all in less than 30 minutes. 

Here is the first recipe of hers I have ever tried, and I come back to it at least once a month. I’m making it tonight, in fact, at Mark’s request. 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1- 1 1/2 pounds of loose sausage meat. I usually use poultry sausage. You can use the vegetarian crumbles, but I do not love them. You can also buy sausage in the casings and just slit the casings and remove all the yummy sausage meat.
  • 3 to 4 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I almost always use veggie in everything)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, or if you’re lactose intolerant like Ryan and I, add lactose free unflavored milk (which is also why mine appears more red than yours will)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 package frozen green peas
  • 24 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
  • 1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente
  • Grated Italian cheese, for passing

Directions

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Add sausage meat. Crumble sausage meat as it browns. Add chopped garlic to the pan. When all of the crumbles have browned evenly, deglaze the pan dripping using broth, or beer as I did tonight. I usually use turkey sausage and rarely have to do this. Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce up to a bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir cream into your sauce, this will blush the color and cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir peas and basil into your sauce to combine. Toss hot drained penne rigate in pan with the sauce, then transfer pasta to serving bowl.

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This is just the first of many of Rachel’s recipes that I have tried on my family. I now take what she started with, and add my own twists as I see fit. I like squeezing veggies into everything, so I have been known to add grated carrots to this sauce, or onions, or peppers when I have extras, or diced tomatoes. Ryan LOVES this. Pair it with some crusty garlic bread and it may be the perfect weeknight meal.

*A note on my photo: I am not a photographer! Also, I shop once a month for staples like canned goods, frozen vegetables in the winter, and yes, pasta. Tonight’s dinner was a mis-matched mix of various pastas I had left from last months shopping trip. Oops. 

Peanut Udon Noodles and Cucumber Salad

We eat a lot of noodles in this house and a lot of natural peanut butter.  Combine them both, and everyone in this joint is pretty happy.  That said,  I had a hard time finding the perfect peanutty sauce that wasn’t too thick, wasn’t too thin, wasn’t too spicy, wasn’t too sweet, so after many attempts, this is my usual quick sauce that everyone gives a thumbs up.

Peanut Udon Noodles

1 pkg udon noodles

3 T. peanut butter (I like all natural, no sugar added)

1/2 c. chicken broth (vegetable broth works too)

1 1/2 T. minced fresh ginger root

1 T. honey

3 T. low sodium soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

Sriracha sauce to taste (for the kids I usually only use about 1 tsp for the entire batch)

1/4 c. fresh cilantro, torn in to small pieces

1 bunch green onions, white tops sliced into thin rounds

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add udon noodles.  Stir.  While those are boiling, you can make the sauce.

In a saucepan, add all other ingredients except cilantro and green onions.  Whisk over medium heat until it begins to boil.  Turn heat to low and stir periodically while you check the noodles.

When noodles are nicely al dente, drain the water off and return them to the pot.  Whisk peanut sauce one more time and pour over the noodles.  Mix well to combine.  When serving, top with cilantro and green onions.

Cucumber Salad

1 English cucumber

1/2 small white or yellow onion

1 sheet of Nori, torn in to small pieces

3/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar

1/4  c. water

1 T. sugar

1 T. minced garlic

1 T. low sodium soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

Peel and thinly slice cucumber.  Thinly slice onion into rings.  Whisk together all other ingredients.  Lay cucumber slices, pieces of nori, and onion slices in the mixture and stir to coat fully.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving.  When serving, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. *optional

Peanut Noodles and Cucumbers

Dinner Tuesday: Fettuccine with Tomatoes, Basil, and Brie

From The Silver Palate Cookbook. I’ve never tried this recipe, but it sounded fresh and summery and deliciously simple, so I found the best tomatoes one can find this time of year and got to work.

4 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound of Brie, rind removed and torn into irregular pieces (yes, you read that right… a POUND)
1 cup fresh basil, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup best quality olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds linguine
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (optional)

At least two hours before serving, combine tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper into a large serving bowl. It’s important to do this well in advance so that the cheese and tomato juices slowly begin to break down into the olive oil.

Boil your pasta in salted water until tender but still a bit firm.

Drain pasta and immediately toss with your prepared tomato sauce. Serve at once with fresh pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano is desired. Serves four.

Notes:

You can definitely substitute the Brie with fresh Mozzerella instead and it would be good, but it would be missing the unique flavor of Brie and the creaminess that comes from it melting a bit. I began to question the quantity it called for, but realized I didn’t have enough tomatoes in the mix. If it looks like way too much, obviously they are going by large summer tomatoes, which aren’t available right now.

I was also trying to use up the pasta I have in my pantry, so instead of linguine (which would have been ideal with such a chunky sauce), I used a partial box of regular fettucine and a package of saffron fettuccine I’ve had sitting around for months since my last pilgrimage to Dean & DeLuca in St. Helena, Napa.

Final Thoughts:

This is a good summer dish, somewhere between a meal and a pasta salad type of dish. I think some torn up french bread left to marinate in the tomato sauce and less pasta would be really good, but even better? Way less pasta and large handfuls of uncooked baby rocket tossed in. I was determined to not use the additional Parmesan because of how much Brie was in it already, but it definitely added a great flavor to the mix that balanced well against the acidity of the tomatoes, the strong licorice-ness of the basil, and the smoothness and saltiness of the Brie. Problems with this dish is that it does not appear to be something that keeps well unless you take it out and let it slowly warm up to room temperature. I can see this being a great thing to add to a family summer potluck. Too easy. Aaaand… not the most impressive picture:

pasta