pan-fried asparagus with tomatoes and black olives (and bacon bits)

Pan-fried Asparagus with Tomatoes and Black Olives (and bacon bits)
2 pounds thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
2 -4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon bacon, chopped and fried until crisp, drained (optional)
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Trim the asparagus. Hold up one spear and snap off the end. Cut all the other spears to the same length.

Make the tomato-black olive dressing. Use the pan drippings from the pork chops to make the dressing. Over medium heat, fry the garlic in the pan drippings until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and olives. Cook until the tomatoes “spring” water and become wilted. Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover with foil, and reserve.

Cook the asparagus. Rinse out the skillet and dry it with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Lay half the spears in the pan in one direction. Lay the other half in the opposite direction. Cover and cook over medium heat until the asparagus turns a bright green, about 2-4 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and pour the dressing on top. Top with cheese, basil, or bacon bits.

fettucine with quick bolognese sauce

Fettucine with Quick Bolognese Sauce (Adapted from Shine)
Hurricane Sandy’s coming. The skies have been leaden and gray all day, expectant with rain. I joined a whole lot of other New Yorkers stocking up on water, batteries, and lamps. I went to the market to stock up the pantry, too. So we wait for Sandy’s arrival tomorrow, and I thought, it will be a good night for comfort food.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 38 minutes
Total time: 48 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef (I used lean ground turkey)
2 oz pancetta, finely chopped (I used bacon)
coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
2 cups green peas, frozen
12 oz dried fettucine (can use egg pappardelle)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, for serving

Preparation

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onion and sauté until it softens and begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the ground turkey and bacon. Season with salt and pepper and sauté, breaking up the meat with a spatula. Cook the meat just until it is no longer pink. Add the wine to the meat mixture and boil until it has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice, broth, cream, and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. Break up the tomatoes and stir occasionally, until slightly thickened and the flavors are blended, about 30 minutes. Ten minutes before the sauce is ready, add the frozen peas to the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook until just tender, about 5-7 minutes for al dente. Drain the pasta, and then return to the same pot. Add the sauce and toss to coat.
  4. Divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle each with thyme and cheese. Serve right away, passing more cheese alongside.

pappardelle with spicy sausage, green beans, and mushrooms

Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage, Green Beans, and Mushrooms (adapted from Savory Simple)

This is a deliciously simple weeknight meal and it only takes less than half an hour. This is truly “quick and easy” in my book! The mushrooms have a nice smoky flavor that contrasts nicely with the spiciness of the sausage. I added the green beans–we all could use more fiber anyway–and their bright green color was a lovely contrast with the golden noodles.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 -8.8 ounces pappardelle
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4-6 links hot Italian sausage, casing removed (can use sweet Italian sausage)
  • 7 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (can use shiitake)
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced into 2 inch lengths
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime (lemon in the original recipe)
  • 6 ounces homemade chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
  • salt to taste
  • fresh grated Parmesan for garnish, optional

Preparation

  1. Cook pappardelle according to the instructions on the box.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up the oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When the pasta has cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water. Drain the noodles and set aside.
  3. Remove the sausage casings and discard.  Crumble the sausage stuffing into the hot oil.  Reduce heat to medium and brown the sausage.
  4. If the sausage sticks to the pan, add a tablespoon of water and scrape up the brown bits called fond, tossing them with the sausage. Fond adds flavor.
  5. Once the sausage is cooked and (mostly) browned, add the sliced mushrooms and chopped green beans.  Sauté for two minutes, then lower the heat and add the garlic.
  6. After the garlic has cooked, about 60 seconds, sprinkle sausage mixture with the red pepper flakes and squeeze on half the lime or lemon juice. Remove the sausage mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Add the chicken stock to the skillet to deglaze it, scraping up any  fond from the bottom of the pan. Allow the stock to reduce slightly, a minute or two.
  8. Stir in the cream, if using. Add a 1/4 cup of reserved cooking water to the pasta. Toss to separate the noodles. Add more water, 1/4 cup at a time, if needed.
  9. Return the sausage and mushroom to the pot with the pappardelle. Toss. Taste, and add salt if needed.
  10. Garnish with crushed red pepper flakes and Parmesan, if desired.

toasted orzo risotto with corn, thyme, tarragon, and chives

The secret to this deliciously simple dish is the orzo. For best results, this tiny pasta must be al dente. And I recommend making it with a vegetable stock because it tastes so much better! As the orzo absorbed the stock, it turned brown. If you use water, the orzo will be white. I insist that all the ingredients must be fresh: fresh corn, thyme, tarragon, chives, garlic, lemon, and shallot. It’s surprisingly sweet but tangy, with a faint peppery flavor from the tarragon. To get the corn off the cob, I used a sharp knife to slice the kernels off the cob, then lightly chopped them to separate them. Be careful when you do this;  I put the cob lengthwise on the cutting board and sliced downward.  I added tarragon and chives because the thyme was already in the recipe, but I think experimenting with a combination of fresh herbs would be delicious. Savory Simple recommends Penzey’s Sunny Paris Spice for seasoning, but I think it is only available by mail order. I just used salt and pepper, which is simple and easy. Like this recipe. The whole thing took 25 minutes to prep and cook.

Toasted Orzo Risotto with Corn, Thyme, Tarragon, and Chives (adapted from Savory Simple)
Makes  2 entrees or 4 side dishes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
1 ear of sweet corn, approximately 3/4 cup kernels (see note)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, leaves only, minced fine
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced fine
1 3/4 water or homemade stock
salt & pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preparation

  1. In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds Add the orzo to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the orzo to toast while stirring. You can go lighter or darker with the toasting. As the orzo browns, it will develop a nutty flavor.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the corn kernels, lemon juice, thyme, tarragon, and chives. Add 1/4 cup of water or stock. Stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/4 cup liquid. Repeat until a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid is added  to the pan and is absorbed by the orzo. Reserve the last 1/4 cup.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the last of the water or stock, pine nuts (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.

pan-fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

I’ve been cooking a lot with tomatoes lately!  Tomatoes are so versatile raw or cooked, so naturally, I had to try this new fish recipe. According to myrecipes.com, this recipe, if made with 6 ounce yellowtail snapper fillets with the skin on, amounts to 282 calories per serving. I used tilapia because it was available (and cheaper) but I think any white fish will do. The sauce has a nice light taste; not overpoweringly tomato-y. In fact,  all the flavors of the herbs come through, so be sure to use fresh as directed in the recipe.

Pan-Fried Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (adapted from myrecipes.com)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley in original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds tilapia fillets (approximately 2 large fillets)

1. In a medium skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add tomato to the pan and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, and tarragon. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste. Cover the skillet to keep warm.

2. In a large nonstick skillet heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper per side. Add fish to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the fish over; cook 3 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. Serve fish with the warmed sauce.

gluten-free quick chicken piccata

This was quick and easy! I usually don’t play around with a new recipe but I thought I could make some swaps without changing the recipe too much. So I swapped hazelnut flour for the all-purpose to make it gluten-free. Any nut-flour you might have on hand will do. However, without the all-purpose flour, which is also a thickener, the sauce was thin; but I don’t mind a thin sauce. It was a tad sour, so I recommend reducing the lemon juice. After all, the capers have been soaked in brine and they add a salty sour flavor to the sauce. This recipe was originally for chicken breasts, but my son dislikes white meat so I made it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs for him. Other swaps: rice cooking wine for white wine, and cilantro for Italian flat leaf parsley. I am basically, and without apology,  a Chinese cook!

Gluten-Free Quick Chicken Piccata (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 25 Minutes
Servings: 6
 

INGREDIENTS:

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast (originally 4 chicken breasts)
2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup hazelnut flour for dredging (all-purpose flour in original)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/2 cup white wine (I used rice cooking wine)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I thought it was too sour, so reduce to 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped (I used cilantro)

 DIRECTIONS:

1. Slice chicken breast horizontally in half. Place chicken between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound to about 1/2-inch thick. Slice each “steak” in half.

2. Lightly season both sides of chicken with cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Dredge lightly in flour and shake off any excess.

Cook’s Note: The sauce for this recipe is salty, so season lightly! Omit the salt just to be cautious.

3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken in the pan, reduce heat to medium, and cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side for thighs, 3 minutes per side for breasts. Remove to a plate. Don’t wash out the pan.

4. Cook capers in remaining oil in the pan, smashing them lightly to release brine, until warmed though, about 30 seconds.

5. Pour wine into skillet. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced, about 2 minutes.

6. Stir lemon juice, water, and butter into the reduced wine mixture; cook and stir continuously to form a thin sauce, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir parsley through the sauce.

Cook’s Note: Since I used hazelnut flour, it doesn’t thicken the sauce like wheat flour does. If you wish to make the sauce thicker, add 1 tablespoon teaspoon all-purpose flour to the capers, then add the liquid.

7. Return chicken breasts to the pan cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. The chicken soaked up the sauce  when it was returned to the pan. Don’t turn them; they’ll look prettier. Serve with sauce spooned over the top.

zucchini risotto

“Can I have the recipe, Mom?”

Apart from that unusual request, AJ had three helpings. He leans more towards the carnivore end of the scale. I’m just slightly to the left of omnivore heading into vegetarian territory. Nope, not vegan. I’m not ready to give up meat or dairy! But to get back to this recipe, it is a good one. What’s not to like? It’s not quick and easy, but short-cuts would compromise the flavor I think. And to me, anything that calls for a broth or stock should include one made from scratch. I made a simple vegetable broth from two leeks, three medium carrots, an onion, bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, and the stems of a bunch of cilantro. I gently boiled the vegetables in 7 cups of water for 40 minutes. The risotto itself took 45 minutes to make. So no, this is not quick and easy, but well worth the effort last Sunday afternoon when I made it instead of indulging in restless snacking. The rice was creamy, the zucchini was crunchy, and the sun dried tomatoes added texture, color, and flavor.

Zucchini Risotto (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

6-7 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably home made
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice, uncooked
1 medium zucchini, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
10 sun-dried tomatoes, softened and chopped (if using tomatoes in oil, drain first)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (or mozzarella) cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, or to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

 Preparation:

  1. Bring vegetable or chicken stock to a boil in a medium stock pot, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
    Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook for 2 minutes, or until softened. Add the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted.
  2. On medium heat,  ladle in 1 cup of simmering vegetable stock to the rice, stirring continuously. When the liquid is absorbed, add another cupful of stock to the pan. Continue stirring. Repeat using up to 6 cups of stock. Risotto should be “creamy” and slightly sticky, yet still firm in the center, or al dente. If it isn’t tender, add a little of the 7th cup of stock.
  3. When almost finished, stir in the zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme, adding stock as needed and stirring continuously. Stir in basil and 3 tablespoons cheese just before serving. Divide risotto among 6 bowls, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and season with (salt) and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Note: If using home-made vegetable broth, the dish might not be salty enough. Taste the rice and add salt to taste.

warm pasta salad with corn and zucchini

Last year,  I bought a coupon on Amazon Local for a home-cooked Italian meal with Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian. She came to our old apartment to teach us how to cook the meal. One of the simplest and most delicious courses was the pasta, dressed simply with cubes of mozzarella cheese. The cheese melted in the heat of the spaghetti–a quick and easy version of mac and cheese!  I remembered that when I made this dish. This is a great one dish meatless meal–and it cooked up in about half an hour. To save time, I skipped the fresh corn and used frozen. The oil I didn’t use to fry the zucchini I used to flavor the pasta. Then I dressed it up with mozzarella cheese, a delicious lesson learned from Sandra.

Warm Pasta Salad with Corn and Zucchini (adapted from Skinnytaste.com)

Ingredients
2-4 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups sliced zucchini (2 medium zucchini sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (3 ears of corn)
1/2 cup red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red or yellow sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
8 oz uncooked pasta
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1/3 cup “black Italian olives” (I used kalamata)
1/2 to 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
8 basil leaves, chopped
Cooking spray
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain cooked pasta and set aside.

Spray cooking spray in a large skillet and heat it over medium high heat. You will need to cook the zucchini in two batches. Place the zucchini rounds in a single layer in the skillet. Cook 5 minutes on one side until roasted, then turn and cook again for 5 more minutes. Remove zucchini and set aside. Spray the pan again and put in another layer of zucchini rounds. Repeat.

Remove zucchini and add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add the onion, peppers, and corn. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pan-fried zucchini, pasta, pepper flakes, vinegar, olives, cheese, and basil. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add salt to taste. Toss. Spoon onto plates and sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top.

florentine tortellini

Still continuing my quest for quick and easy meals that are healthy and low cal/low carb. This one met all my requirements, but I think I would have preferred the ravioli instead of the tortellini. I used Cheese Tortellini from Trader Joe’s, and it wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t that good either. No flavor. I liked the spinach bed–I used fresh instead of frozen–it was flavorful because of the red pepper. Next time I would add some lemon juice to it. And caramelized onions.

Florentine Tortellini (adapted from Eating Well)

Ingredients
1 20-ounce package frozen cheese ravioli, or tortellini (4 cups)
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 bunches fresh whole-leaf baby spinach, washed, drained,stems trimmed
1/2 cup water, optional
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ravioli or tortellini according to the package directions.
2. While the ravioli/tortellini is cooking, heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes. If the spinach is too dry, add a tablespoon of water up to 1/2 cup.
3. Divide among 4 bowls, top with the pasta and drizzle 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil over each portion. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Nutrition Per serving : 263 Calories; 13 g Fat; 4 g Sat; 6 g Mono; 28 mg Cholesterol; 28 g Carbohydrates; 13 g Protein; 5g Fiber; 660 mg Sodium; 730 mg Potassium

pappardelle with mushrooms, rosemary, and light tomato sauce, redux

I’m stubborn. Especially when I like a recipe and it doesn’t work the first time around.

It’s been a challenging week. Just as I was getting used to the rhythm of work, I started an online course last week. I’m keeping up with the assignments but not getting much sleep. It’s been tempting to eat out or to eat prepared foods from the supermarket, and so far I have not given in–though we did eat out once this week, and I told myself it’s just because it’s hump-day.  I am still determined to cook healthy low fat low carb meals, but now they have to be quick and easy recipes or they don’t make it into my kitchen! Still, I was stressed out enough that I needed some baking therapy.  I made Martha Stewart’s white butter cake recipe again, but this time I added strawberries to it. It tasted fine but that recipe needs to be revisited too. The strawberries sank to the bottom. I saw somewhere on the internet to dust the fruit lightly with flour to prevent this from happening. Does anyone knows if this really works?

Pappardelle with (Wild) Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Light Tomato Sauce (adapted from Dana Slotkin)

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a main course

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra ­virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 large red onion, minced
2 garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (15­ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup low ­sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (It doesn’t need it; I left it out)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound homemade or store­ bought pappardelle (or other wide pasta)
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, washed well and sliced (I used baby bellas)
Grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Preparation
1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the broth and cook until thickened slightly, about 10 more minutes. Stir in the cream, if desired; simmer for one more minute, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Note: I had some grape tomatoes that I wanted to use up. I sliced them in half and added them to the onion and garlic mixture. You can never have too many tomatoes!

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

3. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend the sauce; keep warm.

4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is tender but still al dente; drain (do not rinse) it and set aside.

5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat and sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the tomato sauce and pasta to the skillet, tossing to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. With a large serving fork, twirl the pasta and transfer it to serving bowls. Top each portion with extra sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. I added a few twists of freshly ground Trader Joe’s four peppercorn mix. I served it with a fresh salad and Hugo’s sushi vinaigrette salad dressing.