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.
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Italian meatball soup with orzo, spinach, and carrots

I went the extra mile for this recipe I adapted from dashrecipes.com!  I had the time this afternoon so I made a vegetable soup stock from scratch, using leeks, celery, garlic, and carrots, seasoned with bay leaf, fresh tarragon, and thyme. For additional flavor, I added a teaspoon of organic Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base. If not for that detour, this recipe would be quick and easy. Of course, to save time, I used the carrots from the stock in the meatball soup, and saved the rest of the vegetables for puréeing later. I will add the purée to the remaining stock for flavor.  I recommend serving this soup with a simple salad or hot crusty bread for a light supper.

Italian Meatball Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Carrots
INGREDIENTS:

1⁄2 lb ground sirloin
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
5 1/2 cups light chicken broth (reduced-sodium, fat-free)
2 cups fresh spinach (no stems)
3⁄4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 cup chopped carrot
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1. In small bowl, combine ground sirloin, egg, Panko, cheese, basil, and onion powder. Using a teaspoon, shape into 1-inch balls.

2. In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and cook 10 minutes on simmer. Stir in the orzo and carrot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the meatballs are done. About a minute before the meatballs are done, add the spinach. Serve topped with additional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

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.

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

it’s humpday so it’s spinach pesto

I found this simple and delicious recipe on domestic diva, MD. I made some changes because AJ is allergic to walnuts but not pecans. I like it spicy so I added the garlic and red pepper flakes. It’s delicious served on top of Trader Joe’s Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli with a salad on the side. It’s perfect for a quick and easy humpday dinner!

Ingredients

3 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained
1/3 cup pecans (originally walnuts)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon  lemon juice
1/4  cup olive oil, less if desired
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a food processor, add the spinach, nuts, parmesan, garlic, pepper flakes, and lemon juice.
  2. Start the food processor and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube until you reach your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To store, place in small jars and leave room at the top. Cover with a thin layer of olive oil. This will help your pesto stay green.

Lasagna Fet Mot

I love lasagna.  But baking one in Bangkok poses quite a challenge. Ricotta cheese, a main ingredient, is quite expensive. I wondered, Is there a lasagna recipe that doesn’t need ricotta cheese? Well, I found one on food.com! It called for a pound and a half of fet mot (Thai for fresh mozzarella) cheese and NO ricotta.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage or 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef or 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 (12 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano or 1 1/2 teaspoons other Italian spices
  • 1/2 lb cooked and drained lasagna noodles (I substituted no-cook lasagna noodles)
  • 1 1/2 lbs sliced mozzarella cheese (I used grated)

 Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven 350˚F.
  2. I used chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes and processed in 6  one- second pulses in a food processor. Do this in three batches.
  3. Fry garlic and onion in hot oil until soft.
  4. Add meat and cook until crumbly. Drain oil. I had no oil to drain because I used chicken.
  5. Mix in salt, pepper, spices, tomato sauce, tomato paste and water.
  6. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Simmer 30 minutes for ground chicken.
  7. In a shallow 9×13 inch pyrex dish, put a thin layer of sauce.
  8. I used no-cook lasagna noodles. Layer half the noodles, then sauce, and top with half the cheese.
  9. Repeat layers ending with mozzarella cheese.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Cut into squares.

the Hot Italian

It sounds like a come-on, doesn’t it? But I’m talking about spicy Italian cooking here! Now, I’ve done things like spaghetti,  lasagna, and pizza. Sandra, the Feisty Italian chef told me some things about Italian food that I didn’t know. First, pizza isn’t real Italian food. That’s like chow mein isn’t real Chinese food either. The second thing Sandra explained was that Italians only eat lasagna on feast days. I was too ashamed to mention what a horrible thing the Thai have done to spaghetti sauce (ketchup is the main ingredient. Shudder.).

I went grocery shopping for ingredients mainly at Trader Joe’s on Broadway. On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up ciabatta bread, basil, eggplant, peppers, tomato paste, romaine lettuce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and rigatoni all for just $19.02. At Fairway I got a jar of hot cherry peppers, two 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes, a zucchini, and dried parsley. I decided to treat us to sparkling apple cider so that came to $14.96. I bought four chicken breasts with the bone-in and skin-on @$1.99 per pound and a small bottle of apple cider vinegar for $1.00. The cost of the meal came up to just over $40.00.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook from an Italian so I bought this coupon from AmazonLocal for a three course Italian meal for up to four people cooked right in our apartment for $99.00.  AJ invited his friend Robin. Then The Feisty Italian cook Sandra Catena came on Thursday afternoon to the Teeny Tiny Apartment. Sandra proceeded to show us how to make a delicious home-style Italian meal in two hours. I learned the difference between EVOO and OO. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the most expensive and is very light and delicate, best suited for salads. Olive Oil is better for cooking. So here it is.

The Hot Italian: A Three Course Italian Meal (by Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian)

Romaine Lettuce Salad with Vinegar and Oil
1 pound romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 loaf Italian bread (e.g. ciabatta)

Rigatoni Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Vegetables
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup mozzarella cheese, coarsely chopped
Salt
Olive Oil
2 quarts water
Olive oil

Marinara Sauce
1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
8 whole fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (1 teaspoon dried)
1 sprig fresh oregano (1/4 teaspoon dried oregano)
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes (peperoncino)
Olive oil

Chicken with Hot Cherry Peppers
4 chicken breasts (skin on, bone in)
1/4 cup salt
4 cups water
1 (16 oz) jar hot cherry peppers

  1. Brine chicken breasts in cold water to cover and 1/4 cup salt for 2 hours before cooking.
  2. Peel off the leafy top of the eggplant and cut off both ends. Make 3 horizontal cuts in the eggplant from the bulbous end at the bottom. Make 3 vertical cuts in the eggplant. Slice into thin strips. Cut off the top and bottom of the zucchini. Split it in half lengthwise. Split each length down the middle. Thinly slice each length crosswise. Put in a large bowl and set aside. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Add to the bowl and set aside.
  3. Mince the onion and the garlic.
  4. In a large pot, put the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook on high heat until it is bubbling. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes or until thickened.
  5. In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes to develop the flavors.  Add the cut-up vegetables. Toss and stir until thoroughly cooked through, about 20 minutes. Spoon the vegetables and liquid into the tomato sauce. Add the parsley and and oregano. Do not wash out the skillet.  Let the marinara sauce with vegetables cook an additional 20 minutes or until thickened. Turn off the heat.  Add the whole basil leaves and stir.
  6. To the (unwashed) skillet add the chicken and peppers with liquid. Cover and cook over medium heat, turning chicken occasionally, until cooked, about 35-40 minutes. Remove the skin and discard. Cook’s Tip: I would reduce the cooking time for the chicken to 25-30 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken.
  7. Cook one pound of rigatoni in a large pot of water seasoned with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt. Cook as directed on the package. Drain. Put about a cupful of pasta in a medium bowl. Spoon marinara sauce over and toss in a few chunks of the mozzarella cheese.
  8. Coarsely chop the lettuce. Add the vinegar and olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with slices of ciabatta bread.

To serve, start with the salad and the bread. Then proceed to the pasta. Fill a bowl with a cup of rigatoni, a ladleful of marinara sauce with vegetables, and a tablespoon of mozzarella cheese.  Serve the chicken last. The salad was crisp and tart. The pasta was superb; al dente and the sauce, mm-m! It was infused with fresh vegetable flavor–rather like a ratatouille. Oh darn. I forgot to take a picture of the chicken when it was cooked. I was so hungry, I was halfway through the pasta when I remembered to take a picture of it. After the pasta I was too full to eat more than a mouthful of chicken. Today, AJ ate all the leftover chicken so I have no pictures of it at all!

the couple’s frittata

I found this recipe in the New York Times magazine last Sunday for herb and olive frittata. I thought they sounded like husband and wife so I called it the couple’s frittata. I picked up all the fresh herbs (organic no less) at Whole Foods then found out, after consulting the menu, that I forgot the olives. A second trip to the market solved that problem. Then it took me 30 minutes to prep and chop up the herbs. That was indeed the drawback to this little recipe is how long it takes to prepare the ingredients. It cooked up without a hitch but the taste was too bland for my liking. Either I have to put in a whole lot more herbs or I should just chop up a “country pepper” and throw it in like any Jamaican would.

Ingredients
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped black olives, preferably oil-cured
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
salt and pepper

1. Put the oil in large 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes.

2. Add the olives and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and become dry, 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together flour and milk until well combined. Add flour-milk mixture to the eggs, along with some salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.

3. Turn heat to low and pour the egg mixture into the skillet, using a spoon if necessary to evenly distribute the herbs and olives. Cook, undisturbed, until the eggs are just set, 5-10 minutes. You can set the top further by putting the pan in an oven at 350˚F for a few minutes or by putting it under a broiler for 1-2 minutes. What I did was ease the bottom up with a pancake turner and flipped the frittata over onto a plate. Then I slid the frittata back into the pan to continue cooking upside down. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. With lots of hot sauce. Like Sriracha.

Makes 4-6 servings

chicken and fennel meatballs

I liked the fact this recipe said to pinch off a bit and cook it up, taste it, and adjust seasoning. And that’s what I did.  I increased the amount of fennel, black pepper, and garlic, and I used egg whites instead of whole eggs. It wasn’t bad. I didn’t make the salsa verde because I couldn’t find the tinned tomatillos. Instead I bought a jar of Classico Cabernet Marinara and threw into it some leftover broccoli. This recipe comes from a Canadian magazine City Palate.ca. Thanks for the magazine, Ardis!

Serves six.

Meatballs
Extra virgin olive oil/cooking spray
2 lb ground chicken
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher or coarse salt
1/2 cup finely chopped bacon (didn’t say cooked or raw, so raw it must be!)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped (sub cilantro)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
2 egg whites

Salsa Verde
1 can tomatillos
2-3 serrano chilies, seeded and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
salt to taste
olive oil to drizzle

Spaghetti, cooked (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Drizzle a medium casserole dish with olive oil and set it aside.
  2. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix the ingredients together with your hands until they are just combined, making sure not to over mix. The mixture should feel slightly tacky and wet. Pinch off a small piece, flatten it out and cook it in the oven. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the mixture accordingly.
  3. Form the mixture into 1-1/2-inch balls and place them in the prepared casserole dish. Bake the meatballs, rotating the dish halfway through cooking, for 20 minutes until golden brown and fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the salsa verde. In a blender, purée the tomatoes. Then add the chilies, cilantro, and salt. Continue to blend until the cilantro is finely chopped but not completely puréed. Transfer the meatballs to a sauté pan, our the salsa verde over them and warm through. Serve drizzled with olive oil. Eat with cooked spaghetti, if you wish.