spaghetti alla carbonara

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We were expecting company for dinner, but  the guest list suddenly expanded from two to five. Which is okay because there was enough chicken to go around–the Lemon-Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes. I had also planned on making spaghetti alla carbonara, and two vegetable dishes. This carbonara does not have a cream sauce, for which I was grateful. Sometimes a cream sauce can be just too heavy for this dish. It should be light and salty. I do like the salty flavors from that bacon and ham generously crumbled and chopped and tossed in the pasta. I doubled this recipe for 8, so halve it for four.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (adapted from food network)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound dry spaghetti  (preferably whole wheat)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 strips bacon, crisped in the microwave then crumbled
1/2 cup Canadian bacon or ham, chopped (about 6 slices)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh basil, shredded, or use Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped coarsely (optional)

Directions

Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian “al dente.”) Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Microwave the bacon to minimize spatter. Do not discard the fat. When the bacon is crisp set aside to cool. Pour the rendered fat into a large skillet. Add the Canadian bacon. When it is slightly browned, add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Return the cooked bacon to the pot. Combine. Turn off the heat.

Coat cooked spaghetti in bacon fat. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Use a pair of silicone tipped tongs to toss the pasta. You may need to add a bit of olive oil. To add the sauce in the next step, do NOT turn on the heat.

Make the sauce. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Pour the egg/cheese mixture onto the pasta. This is done off the heat to ensure the eggs don’t scramble. That would be a tragedy! The heat from the pasta cooks the egg. Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Cook’s Note: I did not get much sauce, probably because I doubled this recipe.

Add seasoning. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt.

Serve. Mound the spaghetti alla carbonara into a large serving plate. Garnish with basil or parsley, if desired. Add more cheese if desired. This carbonara was zesty from the Parmesan cheese, chewy because of the aal dente pasta, and a bit salty and crunchy from the ham and bacon. The egg sauce binds to the pasta so that the Parmesan flavor came through with every mouthful.

 

breakfast casserole

I love baking with the confidence that cakes will turn out consistently. Weighing ingredients is such a simple solution to baking problems, and now that I have a scale, it’s easy to do. I do admit I’m a bit anal about getting the grams exact! Here’s a picture of my practically perfect cake:

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I love baking, and breakfast casseroles are as easy as cake! For our friends escaping the Wisconsin winter, I made this breakfast casserole out of caramelized onions and bacon from a recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.

Makes: 6 servings
Preparation: 30 mins
Chilling: 2 hrs to 24 hrs
Baking: 325°F/180˚C;  40 mins
Standing:  10 mins

Ingredients
6 strips bacon
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
5 eggs
1 1/3 cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon of one or a mixture of: dried basil, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
4 cups crusty French bread, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 oz white Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or use any cheese you like)

Sriracha sauce for serving, optional

directions
In the microwave, cook bacon until crisp. Remove and reserve 2 tablespoons drippings. When it is cool, crumble bacon; set aside. Heat skillet and add the bacon drippings. Add onion to skillet; cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook over medium heat until caramelized, about 5 minutes. The onion will wilt and turn brown all over. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Heat a small pan of water. When it boils, add about a teaspoon salt. Cook broccoli in the lightly salted water for 3 minutes; drain and rinse until the broccoli is cool to the touch. Rinsing stops the cooking process and preserves the bright green color that makes this casserole so attractive.

In a large bowl combine eggs, milk, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir in bread cubes, cooled broccoli, caramelized onion, cheese, and crumbled bacon. Mix well to combine. Spray inside a 2-quart covered baking dish with cooking spray.  Scrape egg mixture into prepared dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325˚F/180˚C. Bake casserole, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 to 30 minutes more or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. I simply looked at it and saw that the top had turned golden brown after 20 minutes, so I took the casserole out of the oven. Let it stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Sriracha sauce, if desired.

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downy yellow bundt butter cake

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I love the way this cake turned out! It has a wonderful vanilla scent, and the crumb is moist and tender. The foolproof way to make this wonderful cake is to weigh the ingredients. Grams are more accurate than ounces. Instead of baking a layer cake, I made a bundt. I glazed it with a tart lemon-lime glaze which tempers the sweetness.

All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake (Adapted from: The Cake Bible)

Have at room temperature:
6 (112g) large egg yolks
1 (242g) cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups (300g) sifted cake flour
1 1/2 (338g) cups superfine or caster sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 (170g) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Grease and flour:
• Two 9×1 1/2 inch cake pans, bottom lined with waxed paper or parchment, OR
• One 10×3 inch bundt cake pan (total: 12 cups)

In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend on low speed 30 seconds.

Add butter and remaining milk. Mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides.

Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s). Smooth the top with a spatula. The pan(s) will be half full. Tap the pan(s) lightly on the counter then bake 25-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool the cake(s) in the pan on racks for 10 minutes. When the cake cools, it will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

When completely cooled, the cake layers can be frosted. For the bundt cake, I recommend glazing it. To make the glaze, add 1 tablespoon each lemon juice and lime juice to 1 cup powdered confectioner’s sugar. Whisk and pour over cooled cake.

cho-cho with scrambled egg, baby bokchoy, and crunchy baked pork chops

When I was growing up in Jamaica we had these green pear like vegetables we called cho-cho. It’s more commonly known as chayote in North America and choko in Australia. In Thailand it’s called fak miao which is really embarrassing to say as an English-speaker because it sounds like I’m swearing.  Cho-cho has a bland taste, and it cooks up soft, turning from a pale greenish white to a delicate jade green when fully cooked–which doesn’t take long at all.

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Cho-Cho with Scrambled Egg

1 cho-cho, peeled, seed scooped out,  and sliced thin crosswise
2 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the oyster sauce. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, whisk the eggs one more time and pour all at once into the hot oil. Use a spatula to break up the curds. When the egg is cooked, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Using the same skillet, add the cho-cho slices and cook, stirring all the time until the vegetable starts to wilt and the slices turn jade green. Add the salt. Return the cooked eggs to the skillet and combine. Serve hot.

I had signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November so I wasn’t able to cook as often as I should have, especially when it got closer to the 30th and I was writing 3000 to 4000 words a day. Crunch time! I had bought baby bokchoy and winter melon (fak khiao or green melon in Thai) intending to cook them. Fortunately winter melon can keep in the fridge if it is uncut but the baby bokchoy’s outer leaves started to yellow after a week. So I plucked off the yellow leaves and washed the stems carefully. Dirt collects in the stems so I pulled the bunches apart to wash them. I had a sweet pepper too so I tossed that in too.

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Baby Bokchoy with Winter Melon and Sweet Pepper

1 pound baby bokchoy, stems washed and leaves separated from the bunch
1/2 winter melon, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 sweet bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced and cut in half
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
nampla (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the sweet bell pepper and cook for thirty seconds. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the winter melon and cook 2-3 minutes or until softened but still firm. Season with a little salt and pepper, not too much to finish, but just enough to flavor the vegetables. Add the baby bokchoy and cook until the leaves turn bright green. The stems should be crunchy, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle fish sauce over all, about 1 teaspoon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at once.

I served these two veggie dishes and mashed cauliflower as sides for these pork chops. They are so crunchy and garlicky, tender and moist.

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Crunchy Baked Pork Chops (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Serves 4

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used whole wheat bread)
1/2 onion, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (I used cilantro)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I substituted Coleman’s mustard)
Lemon wedges, optional

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in a medium bowl. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley. Set aside.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined.

4. Increase oven temperature to 400˚F. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Don’t forge to do the edges, too. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 135˚F, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges, if desired. The temperature at resting should rise to 150˚F.

chinese frittata with chinese sausage and chives

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Big Mac joke! No kidding. McDonald’s in Thailand serves Chinese rice porridge or joke for breakfast. It comes with bits of shredded chicken that reminds me of a crispy fried chicken nugget. It’s not bad, though. It’s hardly a culinary triumph but I like trying East-West Fusion food, some of it is not bad, like the time I put krapow gai (Thai basil chicken) in a shepherd’s pie! But some of my experiments need more work, like the penne with Chinese sausage and flowering chives. Well, I tried again, this time in a frittata, an Italian style omelet. The Thais have an omelet called kai jio which is absolutely delicious but I hate to use the cupful of oil it requires to make this. In this frittata, the eggs are salty but not oily, the sausage is sweet and crisp, and the chives are mellow. Yum.

Ingredients
1 cup Chinese sausage sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup Chinese chives, diced
5 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
Sriracha sauce, for serving

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage in a single layer and cook until the bottom is browned. Flip once to brown the second side, about 1 minute per side. Remove from heat and put in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the pan, stir fry the chives until wilted and bright green. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a medium bowl, and add a teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the eggs. Blend well. Mix in the cooked chives.

Heat oil in the pan over medium heat. When it is hot, pour in the beaten egg mixture and layer the sausage on top. Cover the skillet and cook, covered, five minutes or until the eggs are set and the bottom is golden brown. When you take off the lid, you will see the eggs are puffy and they will immediately deflate. Flip the eggs over to brown the top. You can do this with a wide spatula or you can flip the eggs out onto a large plate then slide them back in the pan with the white side down. Brown for 1-2 minutes. Slide the frittata out onto the plate, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice into wedges and serve with Sriracha sauce.

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gluten-free broccoli-zucchini pie

gluten free broccoli zucchini pie

I haven’t blogged in a week because I’ve been busy with dissertation revisions. The weather is still in that funny inbetween state, between winter and spring. It’s been a long cold winter that’s reached into spring and touched me with the sniffles.  What a bother! This pie I made on a whim and threw in the brown rice flour instead of wheat flour. Who’d a thought! It’s delicious, substantial,  and colorful too. 

Gluten-Free Broccoli-Zucchini Pie

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sweet bell pepper , chopped (I used yellow for color contrast, but red or green will do)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or dill, tarragon)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme, sage)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon grated Peccorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup brown rice flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup fat free milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
cooking spray

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly spray a 9 inch pie dish with cooking spray.
Heat olive oil in a large dutch pot. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli and cook it until it is bright green and slightly wilted. Add the pepper and onion an cook until slightly softened. Add the zucchini and cook until softened slightly.
Mix broccoli, zucchini, peppers, onions, herbs and cheeses in a large bowl.
Sift flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.
Add milk, 1 teaspoon olive oil, beaten eggs, salt, pepper, to flour mixture in the bowl.
Combine flour mixture with vegetable mixture, and mix well. Scrape into prepared pie dish.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean when pierced near the center. Let it stand at least 5 minutes before serving.