Thursday, June 30, 2011

Homemade Tagliatelle with Green Olive Sauce

I don't eat much pasta. I love it but it's one of those things I can easily do without, like bread. Maybe it's because it's so often underwhelming. Not much flavor other than gummy bread. Or maybe it's because I first thought I was "cooking" when I doctored pasta from a jar. The boyfriend and I would cook some chicken in a skillet, maybe add some red pepper flakes to the jarred sauce and TA DA! We cooked! I'm not trying to be condescending to anyone who makes and eats that kind of pasta, I still savor it when I have it on that rare occasion, but the stuff that really gets me going is homemade pasta. Pasta with eggs. Pasta with flour, eggs and little else. It's a real treat.

My first time making and maybe even eating homemade, fresh pasta was a Daring Baker's challenge for Lasagna. We had to finely chop a giant pile of spinach and knead it into the pasta dough. It took forever. My wrists hurt. Then it had to rest (as did I). Next up- rolling the dough out until it was thin enough to see through- no easy task- especially on a wooden kitchen table. This time around, the dough comes together in a food processor and there is no kneading required. Just give the dough some time to sit. Rolling the dough still isn't a piece of cake, unless you are equipped, but a marble counter top certainly helps.

Just a few minutes in some boiling water and you've got yourself something to write home about.

Crunch, crunch, yum

Homemade Tagliatelle with Green Olive Sauce
Inspired and Adapted from 101 Cookbooks and The Minimalist
Serves 4

For the pasta:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs

For the sauce:
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 2/3 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
  • fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt. Add the eggs and pulse until a ball starts to form. If the dough is too grainy, add a few drops of cold water. If the dough is too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour. Turn out the dough onto a floured counter. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let the dough sit for 30min - 1 hour on the counter or up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Meanwhile in a large skillet, saute the garlic and onion in olive oil until tender. Add the broth and cream and bring it to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the olives. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes and then blend either with a handheld blender or a blender. Add lemon juice to taste and keep the sauce warm. In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts until fragrant and golden. Do not take your eyes off them!

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the dough is rested, cut it in half and roll the dough out as thin as you can manage without driving yourself crazy. Cut into 1/2 inch strips and add to boiling for 2-3 minutes. Drain the water, reserving 1/2 cup. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water. Once the sauce is as you like it, add the pasta and swirl around for a minute or two. Serve topped with toasted pine nuts and if you need it, Parmesan.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baked Chicken, Tomatoes & Olives with Roasted Asparagus

I cried during my commute this morning. Nothing bad happened. I was listening to the latest This American Life which is centered around fathers and their opening story was about a dad showing how much he cared for his daughter by assembling a terrorist attack kit for her to take with her to college in New York. He apparently spent quit some time assembling special equipment for "the box": a NASA blanket, self powering flashlight, potassium iodide pills in case of nuclear fallout.... When she moved into her dorm, her dad brought "the box" tightly sealed and labeled "Winter Coats". She kept the box with her through her first and second year and then decided to open it on her third year to use the emergency $200 to go tanning before a big trip. On top of all the disaster equipment was a letter from her father. It said: "If you are reading this, then something very bad has happened But don't worry because you're going to be fine."

I love this whole story. It makes me cry now just thinking about it. It's just so frigging sweet. Maybe it's because it reminds me of my own dad. Not always knowing how to verbally or physically show his affection, but making a huge effort to not only provide, but to protect his family. My mom has always said that if she was ever stuck on a desert island, or was in an emergency, the one person should would want by her side is my dad.

I would too.

I was going to post about this recipe anyway and it turns out this totally something my dad would eat, following his strict diet rules of no starch, carbs or sugars. But he would have this for lunch the next day, cold, and slathered in french mustard. With a glass of wine.

Dad: "I'll est 11h du matin et la vie est belle."

Baked Chicken, Tomatoes & Olives with Roasted Asparagus
Adapted from Donna Hay's No Time to Cook
Serves 2
From the pictures you can see that I cheated and used what I had on hand- so no mozzarella or proscuitto but bacon instead- and who can argue with that? This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. The chicken, tomatoes and olives are great the next day too- reheated or not.

  • 8oz pack cherry tomatoes
  • 8oz olives, marinated & pitted
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless (or 4 cutlets)
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • basil leaves
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tbls parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place cherry tomatoes and olives on a cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil and seaon with salt & pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken: if using 2 chicken breasts, slice them in half so you have 4 thin chicken breasts. Cut 4 thick slices of the mozzarella and place them on top of each chicken breast with a few basil leaves on top. Wrap 2 slices of procsuitto around each piece. Remove the tomatoes & olives from the oven and add the chickent breasts on top, seam side down. Bake for 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus: bend each stalk until it breaks naturally and discard the bottom half. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, salt & pepper and scatter on a cookie sheet. Top it all off with some parmesan. Cook in the same oven for about 12 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sichuan Beef with Ginger-Soy Greens

This is one of those dishes that seems too simple and then I had my first bite and was blown away. Coming to you from the amazing Donna Hay (hey!), this meal is fantastic and will literally take you 17 minutes to make. This means that my buying habits have changes and I buy baby bok choy whenever I see it. Much like Meyer lemons or the first ripe strawberries.

If you've never cooked with bok-choy before, don't be detoured- it's an Asian cabbage and has a bit of a bitter taste but the sauce they cook in is very savory and has enough sweetness to really play off the bitter greens.

And the steak is coated in toasted sea salt and Sichuan (or regular... ) peppercorns which adds a bit of spiciness to the dish. The whole combo really hits it out of the park for me. I make this often enough that I will toast extra of the sea salt and peppercorns and save it in a jar along with my spices. That way the only prep I need to do is grate some ginger and wash some bok choy!

Easy-peasy Japanese-ey

Sichuan Beef with Ginger-Soy Greens
Adapted from Donna Hay's No Time to Cook
Serves 2

  • 1 tblsp sichuan peppercorns (or regular)
  • 12 oz baby bok choy (cut in half, lengthwise or chop off the root and separate the leaves)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbls soy sauce
  • 14 oz beef filet
  • 2 tbsl oyster sauce
  • 1 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tblsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
Heat a pan over high heat. Add peppercorns and salt to pan and cook until fragrant (2-3 min). Place mixture in mortar & pestle (or spice grinder) and pound until fine. Sprinkle on all sides of beef. Add oil to pan and cook beef. Remove beef and keep warm. Place sesame oil & ginger in pan and cook for 1 min. Add bok choy and cook for 1 min. Add combined soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar & water and cook for another 2-3 min or until tender.

Tip: If you can't find baby bok choy, use the full grown kind but chop into large pieces and when cooking it, cover the pan for just a few minutes to help steam it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cooking for The Alamo Basement Movie Theatre

My boyfriend has set up a movie theater in his basement and it's pretty awesome. I can't help but cater events so it seemed obvious to make it an official part of the experience. So head on over to The Alamo Basement blog to see what drink and nibbles we served for a viewing of the Christian Slater classic Gleaming the Cube.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day Menu

I don't think I've ever been so excited for Memorial Day. I didn't have any big plans, but I have been extra eager for spring's gentle warmth to turn into long summer days. And I was not disappointed this weekend. My (admittedly black) car registered 102 degrees as I was driving down 14th street in Washington on Monday. And while I'm not ready to bow down to the gods of heat and humidity quite yet, it was a nice change of weather for now.

With friends in town and the weather being what it was, it seemed obligatory to run out to the grocery store on Sunday and try to rustle up the makings of a Memorial Day BBQ. And I'm here to tell you that I timed it, and we had everything ready to be served within 1 hour of getting back from the grocery store. I used as many shortcuts as possible, some better than others (the extra 5 minutes to make a graham cracker crust will be well worth it) and in the end I think everything turned out pretty awesomely, if-I-do-say-so-myself.

So here is the play by play of what I made and how I did it. Oh and I should mention that this menu is assuming you have someone else taking care of burgers. But I'm sure you can bribe some guy into making and grilling some beef patties. These are some of my favorite quick dishes to make all summer long, so I hope you'll find something to add to your table!

Let's start with DESSERT!

Key Lime Pie
From my mom (who I think stole the recipe from the Marriott on Marco Island?)
Makes a 9" pie
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crushed (about 1 sleeve)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 butter, melted
  • 2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup key lime juice (fresh is great- bottled is faster!)
  • 1 lime, zested
  • whipped cream
In a 9" pie dish, combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar and butter. Spread evenly around the pie dish to form a crust that goes up the sides by about 1/2 inch.

In a large bowl combine the sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice and zest. Taste and add more key lime juice if desired. Pour the filling into the pie crust and freeze for about 1 hour. You can cut and eat the pie directly from the freezer- just be sure to top it with whipped cream!

Now that we've got dessert in the bag, let's use those leftover ingredients to make a drink for the cook (and maybe your burger helper).

Gin Refresher
Makes 1 refreshing drink
  • 1 part gin
  • 4 parts Fresca
  • .5 part key lime juice, or to taste
  • lime slices (from the now naked lime from the pie)
Fill a large pint glass half way up with ice. Add 1 part gin and top with 4 parts Fresca. Add a good squirt of lime juice and garnish with lime slices.

On to some veggies! This broccoli slaw is very easy because you don't have to cook the broccoli but this means that you want to make sure and chop the broccoli very finely. I would suggest making this early on so it can sit in the dressing and start to get a little more tender. Although grated cheese is easier, I just can't make myself buy the stuff (it's coated in cornstarch....) so I either grate it myself OR just chop it ! Chunks of cheddar are way better anyway (plus, it's cheaper than the stuff in the bag).

Broccoli, Cheddar & Bacon Coleslaw
Adapted from our old neighbor Annette
Feeds 10-12 people
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 4 broccoli crowns (about 2 bunches), finely chopped
  • 6 oz sharp cheddar, chopped or grated
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbls cider vinegar
  • 1 tbls sugar
Heat a pan to hot and cook the bacon in batched until crispy. Drain on some paper towel and crumble. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, cheddar, onion, cranberries and bacon. In a small bowl make the dressing by combining the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Taste and season with salt & pepper. Add 2/3 of the dressing to the salad and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.

Keeps well in the fridge for a few hours.

Texas Caviar
Adapted from my mom's friend Kimba
Feeds a crowd
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro (if you like the stuff....)
  • 1 avocado, chopped (optional)
  • 1 bag tortilla chips
In a large bowl combine the beans, corn and salsa. TA DA!

We don't like cilantro so we didn't add any and none of the avocados were ripe yet so we had a pretty simple texas caviar but it's still delicious on a tortilla chip!