Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chicken sausage, asparagus, and haricots verts pasta

This is a quick post illustrating how I adapt recipes according to what's laying around my kitchen. Tonight, I made this again. I didn't have broccoli, so I used a few rogue asparagus spears and haricots verts. It's perfectly healthy and took a grand total of twenty minutes. We are full and happy. You can be full and happy too! What's rattling around your fridge begging to be eaten?

4 oz pasta, we like rotini or fusili in this
2 cooked sausages, thinly sliced (I had chicken andouille, not homemade, sadly)
big pinch of red chili flakes
1/2 a shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 or 8 asparagus spears, cut into bite-sized lengths
handful of haricots verts, cut into bite-sized lengths
big splash of chicken stock, low sodium is ideal
handful of Parmesan cheese, finely grated or microplaned

Cook your pasta. Drain and set aside. While that's happening, saute your sausage in a nice wide pan with a little extra virgin olive oil until nicely browned. Add your chili flakes, shallot and garlic and allow to soften for a minute. Add the asparagus and some chicken stock. Season with a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. After another minute, add the haricots verts. Don't cook the crap out of the veggies, you should be ready to eat about 3 minutes after you've added the asparagus. Moisten with more chicken stock if necessary, and add the pasta and cheese. Toss toss toss. Eat happily.

Serves 2, takes no time at all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Steak au poivre over mixed mashed potatoes and beets with caramelized onions and feta

Steak au poivre. Lovely tender hunks of beef liberally coated with cracked peppercorns and bathed in a buttery cognac pan sauce, as made by a Frenchie.


This is the second recipe I've made from Anthony Bourdain's excellent cookbook of dishes from his New York City bistro, Les Halles. The first was a wonderful rich and creamy cassoulet, although I did sort of merge that recipe with a couple of other recipes (but I'm sure it would have been great on its own, too). I think I'll try his roast chicken next.

This side is an absolute favorite in my house: earthy slow-roasted beets paired with sweet caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts, and creamy feta in a Dijon vinaigrette. I never imagined something as banal as the common beet could be this completely delicious (my fellow users obviously agree, as it has a perfect rating of four forks and 99% of the reviewers would make it again. Quite impressive, little beet.) If you're not a habitual beet-eater (shame on you), do note that this will turn your... stuff... very dark red. So before you assume you're bleeding internally after your coffee the following morning and rush to the emergency room, try to keep that in mind.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fresh pea and bacon risotto

This is a salute to the noble English pea. Out of respect, I refrained from taking pictures of any other ingredients. You know what raw bacon and rice look like, right? Use your imaginations. The peas were just too pretty to look at anything else.

The presence of fresh peas snuggled in their cute little shells is my official notification that Spring is here. I've planted some in the garden and I really hope they take off because I just love them. Peas are one of the few vegetables that are generally better frozen than fresh because of the high sugar content; they start losing their glorious sweet fresh flavor just hours after being picked as the sugar converts to starch (I had actually written "glorious sweet fresh pea-ness" but then I said it aloud... Backspacebackspacebackspace.) But if you can get fresh ones very very close to the vine, there is nothing better.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crawfish pies with spinach and grapefruit salad

There is a very old and celebrated Hank Williams song about Louisiana called "Jambalaya." The chorus goes thusly:

Jambalaya, a-crawfish pie and-a file gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou.

Those of you who haven't spent a lot of time in the Deep South may need a dictionary, but we've all heard of jambalaya and gumbo, right? Crawfish pie, maybe not. That is about to change.

This was the first time I've ever made them myself, and they were awesome. Flaky pastry stuffed with spicy thick oozy bubbly delicious crawfish filling, yes, please. You could certainly substitute shrimp if you can't find crawfish tails, but it just won't be the same... Nothing replaces crawfish. Look for them in flat one-pound packages in the frozen seafood section of fancier grocery stores (unless you're in the South, where you can find them in most regular crappy grocery stores too). Do try to buy only Louisiana crawfish - the Chinese ones may taste alright, but they're the polar opposite of local.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red curry noodles with ground pork, red pepper and carrots

I've been slowly accumulating food magazines over the last couple of years. I knew I wouldn't make probably a quarter of the recipes in them and the pile was beginning to get unwieldy, so lately I've been flipping through them and cutting out the ones that speak to me (then taping them to paper and sliding into plastic sheets in a cute binder). This simple and adaptable recipe was yelling at me the loudest, "Make me! ME!"... So I obliged.

Whatever you've got in the crisper is going to work in this dish. I used a red pepper and the rest of the carrots from my garden but it would be great with cabbage, zucchini or summer squash strips, beans or snap peas would be particularly good, and so on. You could certainly use any ground meat you like, and if you don't have ground meat you could just slice a chicken breast or pork chop thinly and use strips. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Swordfish Involtini alla Siciliana with whole-wheat fettucini and wilted spinach

Olives. Capers. Pine nuts. Currants. Chili flakes. Mario Batali whipped this up a week or two ago on "Molto Mario", my favorite bedtime cooking show of late. Well, it was almost 10 years ago that he actually whipped it up, but it only entered my consciousness a week or two ago. I found myself sitting more and more upright watching as he grabbed so many of my favorite things, one after another and put them all together!! Apparently I should have been born Sicilian. I had to have it. 

These are salt-packed capers. They're purported to have more of an actual caper flavor, as the ones in brine are essentially pickled. I actually had a hell of a time finding them - they were not at Central Market (the fellow helping me claimed they were out, but they haven't been there any time I've looked over the past several weeks) nor Whole Foods. But they were at the extremely awesome Jimmy's Food Store, conveniently located a few blocks from my yoga studio. There were several brands to choose from, even! And they have salt-packed anchovies too! Now I just need to get the balls to buy some!! Anyway, the capers were great, very caper-y. I do recommend trying to find them.

Buy local!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beer- and-onion-braised chicken carbonnade with mushrooms and carrots over rice

According to Bon Appetit, from whom I ganked and modified this recipe, a carbonnade is a Belgian stew flavored by beer, onions, and brown sugar. To me, it's Winter in a bowl. Intensely warming, comforting, and satisfying. I always think we should take advice on Winter food from people who live in chilly places and especially those who consider beer not only a beverage, but an ingredient.

So hey, those carrots I planted about 6 months ago actually grew! You'd never know it by looking at the garden - it's absolutely covered in weeds and leaves and general badness. This weekend the mister and I are going to get it back in shape for Spring planting, which includes moving one of the beds into a full-sun spot. I tried to get by on less than that and it was definitely a bad move. Lessons learned in Gardening, Year One: employ preventative pest control (as opposed to frantic tearful hosing with organic soap sprays and still losing 90% of your plants within a couple of hours), and when the seed packet says "full sun", just freakin' plant them in full sun.