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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Feeling Feelings

I’ve had a secret shame buried deep inside me for a few weeks.

I watched “Twilight”. I watched “Twilight” and I liked it.

Now, everyone is carrying on and on about the dreaminess of Edward Cullen and I do feel a bit superior when I proclaim I did not find him the least bit attractive. Now this is not to say there haven’t been a few young men I have taken a shine to; I feel a special kind of flutter every time I see Joe Jonas. Say what you will but that boy really does look like he needs his purity ring tarnished and I am happy to take on that job.  Also, I find his floppy brown hair lovely.

But Edward Cullen? Too pale, skinny, hairless and far, far too blond for me. I do not handle emotional boys well and our dear Edward feels far too many feelings for my liking. He seems a young man that would be scared of hurting me, only wants to make love and would talk incessantly about what a deep connection he feels. I do not care for this one bit.

Oh, and he is a vegetarian. I know plenty of lovely men who are vegetarians, but really? Nothing produces a pile of sawdust in my panties faster than a man who won’t eat a steak.

What I think got me about the movie was the sort of wide eyed faith Bella has in what she is feeling. She is in awe he loves her and doesn’t quite understand it, but she just goes with it.  She is young and unscathed by heartbreak.  There are no “what ifs” and she doesn’t hold back scared of the possibility of being hurt.  The movie reminded me of the free fall of first love and made me wish I was 14 again.  Well, 14-years-old minus the acne and the disproportionately large rack.

Except in my 14-year-old fantasies, it was not Edward Cullen…it was Anthony Kiedis.  There will be no pale vegetarians on my watch, no propping of of weak men who are far too emotive.  The only thing I am ready to handle on a regular basis is raves about my cooking  and Mr. Cullen would not be able to even eat my food and that’s just too bad.  Not to say their aren’t some misses but I like the accolades when they are deserved.  For instance I threw this meal together totally last minutes and it came out really well.  Sure, it is just pasta, but it is flavorful and I managed to get a ton of vegetables in here.  For a fast week night dinner that will leave you a ton of leftovers you really cannot go wrong. The whole wheat pasta adds a nice depth and the sauce, more chunky than a normal sauce, manages to stay light(er) thanks to the turkey and artichokes.  Hey, this isn’t going to change your life but it is way better than a jar of Ragu.

And how do you feel about that, Edward?

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Summer Pasta

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1 pound mushrooms, chopped finely

2 teaspoons dried basil

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 package (about 1.5 lbs) ground turkey

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 8 0z. can tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 14.5 oz. can artichokes, drained

Salt and pepper

1 box whole wheat pasta

Parmesan for sprinkling

Boil salted water and cook pasta while preparing sauce.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms,a pinch of salt and some pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. Drain off some of the liquid from the mushrooms with a spoon. Add basil, oregano, balsamic and turkey and cook for 8 minutes. (You may need to spoon off some more liquid.)Pour in tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes and artichokes. Cook for an additional 7 minutes. Salt and pepper and mix with pasta. Top with parmesan.

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My Way

One of the best things in this world is when you manage to convince people you are doing them a favor but in actuality this kindness comes from a place of self interest.

“Your legs look so pretty in heels” really means “Those freaking Uggs were searing my corneas and if I had to look at them for one more moment I might have vomitted”.

Or when I say “You should totally go on a date with him; he seems like a great guy!” what I am really getting at is “If I have to entertain your sorry, pathetic ass for another Friday night I may shoot myself.”

And “Let me make us all dinner before we go out” is my special way of saying “You need some food in your system because I sure as hell am not going to be the one to hold your hair back in about 4 hours.”

Really, it is all about me.

Last Friday, before the blogger happy hour, I had Maxie and Deutlich over and I told them I would treat them to some food while we threw back. Now , I did want to feed the girls–this is what a gracious host does and at my core I am a nurture caretaker–but I would being lying if I was trying to lay a good foundation for them. They seemed ready for a good time– a very good time– and I didn’t want any nonsense on my hands.

The happy hour that night was a blast even if Arjewtino picked the worst spot in the place and I spent the sum of the evening freezing in my teeny, tiny dress. (I know some of you might be thinking, “She should have dressed more appropriately” to which I counter “Clearly, we have not met”.) I want to thank all of you for coming out and I am sorry if I was not entirely on top of my game. My brain was frozen. It was a pleasure meeting all of you…really.

This is the dinner I made for the lovely ladies before me and my breasts braved the arctic chill of Marvin. Aren’t you just a little but jealous? Hell, I made it and I think I deserve a slap on the ass for this one. I pasted a recipe below from Emeril that is perfect to work from; it does reflect most of the changes I made. I am going to say it; I think this adapted recipe is better than Emeril’s. I, perhaps, kicked it up a notch? I added basil to the recipe (the original didn’t call for it), messed with the proportions and removed a lot of the liquid. I like a thicker, heartier sauce and I see no need for beef broth in this so I took it out. I didn’t really measure anything–from the carrots, to the wine, down to the garlic–but that is the perfect thing about this recipe…it is pretty fool proof. Before anyone asks…no, there is no way to “lighten this up”. I just don’t think it would be anywhere near as good with ground turkey or soy crumbles or without the bacon. Yes, I said it…I think the bacon makes a big difference here; it adds a depth of flavor and a smokiness that is essential. Just eat a salad the next day, hop on the treadmill, and do your best to embrace the temporary jiggle this will add to your wiggle. It is worth it. This was kick ass good and I can not encourage you more to try this for yourself; you, your guests and God him/herself will be so happy.

So, yes, we were full, happy and no one puked. It was a win for everyone.

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Classic Bolognese

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced (I just used four strips)
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic (a couple cloves)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1.5 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and their juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream ( I used fat free half and half)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Pasta…I like fettucine…

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the cream and butter stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with the cheese passed tableside.

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Carbalicious

I grew up eating vats of spaghetti, cooked in an enormous pot with a huge oil slick skimming atop the water. I quickly learned the only proper way to test the strands for doneness was to throw the pasta against the refrigerator door and see if it stuck. Hygienic? No. Oddly satisfying? Yes.

Drowning in Ragu (traditional style!), this to me is pasta. Served along side an iceberg and celery salad doused in ranch dressing, this is one of those meals that perfectly captures childhood for me. I occasionally will long for this meal when feeling melancholy. (If this culinary masterpiece ended with two vienna finger cookies–only two!!– dipped in 2% milk, I might die from bliss overload.)

Yet, something happened to me (and I am sure many of you) a few years ago. In my attempts to slim down, pasta became the enemy. It was..a “c” word…and for a while that “c” word was worse than THE “c” word.

But god dammit, I want my pasta. Oh carbs, how I love you. I want to stare in to your eyes, feel you next to me, envelop myself in your beautiful, starchy goodness. If loving you is wrong I do not want to be right. You are the most delicious sin.

Below is a grown up version of my beloved spaghetti. It is simple to make, flavorful and even manages to sneak a few vegetables in there. I used garlic basil turkey sausage from Whole Foods, as well as whole wheat shells, in an attempt to make this a bit lighter. (Also, if you can believe it, I cut the butter as well.) If I were to make this again, and I eventually will, I would either cut the amount of pasta or throw in an extra sausage or two. I prefer a pretty even ration of meat to carb; it is more filling and satisfying to me. There apparently was a run on broccoli rabe at the grocery stores, so I ended up using broccolini. This was a quicky, somewhat healthy meal that left me with a ton of leftover–nothing sinful about that.

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Adapted from Real Simple

1 pound orecchiette or some other short pasta (I used whole wheat shells)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (I used garlic and basil turkey sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 head broccoli rabe or broccolini
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broth and red pepper and bring to a boil. Then add the broccoli rabe/broccolini, cover, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the drained pasta, season with the salt and black pepper, and toss to combine.

Tip: Broccoli rabe, a leafy distant cousin of broccoli, has a bitter flavor and smaller florets. For a milder alternative, substitute broccoli. For a more peppery bite, try arugula, Swiss chard, or beet greens.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

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Today is an anniversary of sorts. I am completing my first week with my new MacBook and camera. Though I have yet to figure a way to make a sweet and tender love to him (aren’t computers always hims? Mine is named Diego…), I believe his hard drive quivers in waiting.

I honestly could not be happier. I think my pictures look better, I enjoy the portability of a laptop and and he is just so sleek. Hooray for wise purchases…this feels like the only awesome thing that has happened this week.

Dude, this week can kiss my ass. Much wine will be consumed this weekend.

But, every bad week has a silver lining. Last Friday night Sunshine came over and helped me set up the computer (and when I say “helped”, I mean, set it up while I sat there and looked cute). Seeing as he is a misanthrope shut-in, every time I see him is a treat. As his trip largely benefited me, I was even happier to see him. Yes, I am selfish; I never said anything to the contrary.

To repay my vegetarian friend, I threw together these stuffed peppers. Oh dear God, they were good. Flavorful, healthy, moist, and super filling from the chickpeas. My biggest problem with vegetarian meals is not that I don’t love vegetables, it is that sometimes the lack of protein leaves me hungry. Not a problem with this recipe. Anyway, this is one of those recipe that is open to a lot of interpretation. Yellow peppers would be great. Grated carrots could be thrown in, scallions, a flavored feta, eggplant…whatever. I just followed Deb at Smitten’s suggestion for squash because I have been on a squash kick, but the world is your oyster…er, pepper. Do as you wish; it will always taste great. The added bonus? They reheat like a dream.

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Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

2/3 cup plain couscous

4 extra-large or 5 large red bell peppers

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly

1/2 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

3 roma tomatoes

15 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray. Prepare cous cous. Cut the stems and top half inch off the bell peppers and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers upright in a baking dish and roast them for 15 minutes or so, until they soften, then remove them from the oven until the filling is ready. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, zucchini, yellow squash, oregano, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas and tomato paste. Using a fork, scrape the couscous into the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Stir in the crumbled feta. Fill peppers with the couscous mixture. Bake 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Suited for a Ninja

So, I take my responsibilities to the interwebs very seriously. When I posted late last week asking for requests for things to make, I was pleased–and a tad overwhelmed–with all the ideas that poured in. My goal is to make ’em all and answer all your questions. Well, except maybe for you, B: I only have so much free time. I am glad I threw this request out there, because I have been feeling a bit in a rut. Thanks, y’all.

HomeImprovementNinja suggested gnocchi, and I was actually relieved to see the request in my comments. It is something I have been contemplating for ages, but have always managed to put off. It seems like so much work for something I feared I would inevitably screw up. I don’t like failure, as we have established.

Prepping these was not nearly as daunting as I expected. The most annoying part was rolling out the tubes of dough; it takes around 45 minutes of repetitive behavior. It is definitely worth it for the final outcome, though. This yields some light, pillowy pasta that went great with a vodka cream sauce I threw together last minute. I am having the leftovers with pesto for lunch today. These would be great made with sweet potatoes and some kind of sage sauce; lots of possibilities lie in this very simple recipe.

This one is for the Ninja.

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Gnocchi

From Simply Recipes

2 lbs whole baking potatoes (3 large)

2 beaten egg yolks

1 1/2 cups flour

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spear the potatoes with fork tines in several places around each potato to vent moisture as the potatoes cook. Bake the potatoes in their skins until tender, about an hour. Let cool on a rack, cutting them open to help cool and let more moisture escape.

Scoop out the potatoes from their skins. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl. (I don’t have a ricer; I pressed them through a mesh strainer.) It is best to work with the potatoes when they are still warm. Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt. Mix by hand until you have a nice pliable ball of dough. Do not overmix.

Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Take the dough, a piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is very important to keep a light touch while you are rolling the dough. Gently roll the dough with your fingertips while while exerting the lightest pressure outwards, not down, to draw the dough out. Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about one inch long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press against a piece of the dough and roll it slightly to form an indentation (good for catching the sauce). As the gnocchi are made, place them on flat baking pan, lightly dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi ahead of time. Freeze them first on a floured or lined tray, then once frozen you can put them into a freezer bag for more easy storage.

To cook, just put the frozen gnocchi into the simmering water for the next step. Bring at least 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in a shallow saucepan. Gently drop the gnocchi, a few at a time, into the water. As soon as they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, draining well. Arrange on a warm serving dish. Continue cooking the gnocchi in the same manner.

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Training Wheels

About three or four years ago, “y’all” some how made its way into my vocabulary. I have no idea where or whom I picked it up from or how I subconsciously decided to add this to regular conversation, but it seems like it is here for the long haul. I have even uttered “all of y’all” a few times. This affliction seems to especially irk Bawstin, who points it out every time I use it.

While I cannot ever see myself becoming a good Southern girl, they do have it right on a few things, especially food.  Fried chicken, pecan pie and sweet tea are things I can certainly get behind.  I especially enjoy biscuits and gravy and the Southern affinity to slather things in butter.  While all these are great, my all time favorite Southern delicacy has to be shrimp and grits.

My lust for shrimp and grits was awakened about three years ago at Vidalia.  That meal was pure perfection; the shrimp was wonderfully seasoned and cooked for just the right amount of time. While I love shrimp, it can be fickle and become rubbery if it spends an extra 30 seconds in the pan. No such sin occurred to these shrimp.  The grits were velvety and smooth, with just the perfect amount of cheese. Since my introduction to this classic, I order it every time I see it on a menu.

I have been dying to make shrimp and grits at home, but have been hesitant. I am not a Southerner, have never made grits and I fear disappointing myself greatly. It is on my list of things to make (oh yes, there is a written list) but I haven’t quite summoned the nerve. So, instead, I made another shrimp and carb wonder, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I prepared this last Sunday evening when my friend Sunshine came over. He is a pescatarian, so it proves a tad more challenging when he comes over.  This dish, Shrimp with Feta and Orzo, isn’t anything too fancy, but it was perfect for a casual dinner with a friend.  The leftovers were fantastic, too.  The original recipe calls for garlic herb feta; I decided to mince some garlic and use fresh herbs instead.  The feta melts a bit as it cooks, and along with the juices from the tomatoes, creates a light, pinky sauce.  In one pan, you get your vegetables, a protein and a starch. The only thing I love more than a delicious dinner is one that doesn’t dirty five pans. 

Hopefully, the shrimp and grits I vow to make turn out half as good.

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Shrimp with Feta and Orzo

Adapted from Good Housekeeping

1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)

1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/4 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

½ tablespoon fresh thyme

½ tablespoon marjoram, chopped

4 oz feta cheese

Prepare orzo in boiling salted water as label directs. Meanwhile, in nonstick 10-inch skillet, melt margarine or butter over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and sauté for one minute. Add shrimp, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque throughout, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Remove skillet from heat. Drain orzo; toss with shrimp mixture and feta.

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Noodley Goodness

I am an amateur cook, with the occassional culinary disaster. I have been serious about trying new recipes for about three years. Hope you enjoy this nonsense.

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The innagural recipe here is destinctly un-couture–it’s simple, tasty and really easy to make. But that is how things will likely be like in these parts. I love to cook complicated soups, meat and deserts. Lobsters and truffles taste like heaven to me, but just as much as I love all that fancy crap, God, I love garbage. Fat is my friend. A bowl of cake can make my day and, as a wise friend once said, cheese on carb is the best food group. I would kill a man for the perfect piece of pizza. I am known to watch commericals for the latest monstrosity KFC has put on the market and salivate. (Really? Fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes AND a biscuit in a bowl? COVERED WITH GRAVY? Sign me up.)

These asian sesame noodles are a snap to make. They would be perfect to bring to a bbq as a vegetarian dish, as a nice cold midnight snack straight from the container, or along side some salmon, as I served them tonight. The peppers taste like summer and the seasame adds some nuttiness. The next time I make this I will probably throw a few handfuls of edamame in for some protein.

Consider yourself warned: this makes a lot of food.

Peanut Sesame Noodles

Adapted from Gourmet, June 2002

Ingredients

For peanut dressing
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons powered ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
For noodle salad
1 box thin spaghetti or angelhair
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

preparation

Make dressing:
Purée dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.
Make salad:
Cook pasta until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.
Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, and sesame seeds to dressing, tossing to combine, and serve immediately.

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