Tortellini with Pesto

It’s the second to last dinner for my eldest before he heads off to college so I picked an old favorite from his childhood. It’s one that we all love and has carried through as the years go by, of course it’s hard to go wrong with homemade pesto. 

When we found out that he was allergic to nuts I went on a mission to find one that I liked that was nut-free. This one has stood the test of time. 

I started with my basil: a mix of Thai and regular basil (any basil works, I had extra since I’m using it in my dessert tomorrow too). Once it was cleaned I pulled off my leaves and separated it out into portions.


The portion for the pesto went into the food processor with a few cloves of garlic. 

      

Then I started the grill and the water. The Italian sausage took 10 minutes so I started those first, then came in and blanched the basil for tomorrow in my pasta water.

.              

Then I cooked the pasta in the basil water and turned the sausage.

  
I blended up the pesto in the food processor just before the pasta finished, adding salt, pepper, and olive oil after the basil was chopped and finishing with the Parmesan.  

         

While the pasta drained I pulled the sausage off the grill.

  

Then I came in and tossed the pasta – dinner is served and I have a happy boy. 

    

Tortellini with Pesto
Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Cook 10 minutes ∙ Makes 4 ∙ Difficulty Easy 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups basil leaves, fresh, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1½-2 pounds tortellini, cooked

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic until roughly chopped. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil until just blended. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until just blended. 
Toss the pesto into cooked tortellini. 

This can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Dinner for One

It’s been a long time since I prepared a dinner for only myself, in this typically busy house it’s more common to cook for extras. Today was an oddity, my eldest is off with his friends for the week enjoy the last bit of summer before they head in their separate directions, my youngest had an opportunity to go out with friends, and my husband is at a work event.

We had a busy weekend after arriving back from vacation, and today was actually my first full trip to the grocery store so I tossed my original plan for dinner and picked myself up something simple.


I chopped up my tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives, then brushed the naan with the oil from the marinated tomatoes and mozzarella.


I decided to cook on my grill pan over medium high heat, and after turning the bread I topped it with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives, along with my fresh basil and torn prosciutto.

    

At the end, I sprinkled it with cracked pepper and some pepper flakes and enjoyed it with my wine.


Perfect.

Corn Carbonara

Corn isn’t yet in season here in Michigan, but we are beginning to get in good corn from Florida. If you can get good corn this is an awesome spin on a traditional Italian dish that highlights the sweetness of fresh corn. 

Before I start on my activities, I wanted to share a few tips for ensuring that the corn you eat is the best possible. First and foremost, never peek or shuck the corn at your store or market, the minute you peel back the corn husk you will show your naïveté. It will start to get starchy and dry immediately, it is perfectly protected in it’s husk until just before you are ready to cook it. At farmer’s markets they watch for people who do this, and have to throw away those ruined ears. Instead, here are some tips to pick the best corn, without looking. And if you’re still worried, buy an extra ear, they aren’t that expensive. 

  1.  Look for tiny holes in the husk, especially brown and towards the top. Those are wormholes, and, naturally, worms are best avoided.
  2. Feel the kernels through the husk; they should be plump and plentiful. If you can feel gaps in the rows where kernels should be, then choose another.
  3. Look at the silk on the top of the ear, if it’s dry or black, then it’s an old ear of corn.
  4. Check out the color of the husk. If it’s a bright green and tightly wrapped against the cob, then the corn is fresh. (In some cases, it will even feel slightly damp. 

Also, after you shuck it, if you do find a small soft spot, you can remove it with a sharp knife, you do not have to throw the whole ear away, as you can see with one of the ears I used.
     

It was rather warm when I made this, but not quite enough for the air conditioning to be on, so I decided to do all my prep first and then cook everything outside on the grill so as not to make the kitchen unbearable. 

The first task (after shucking the corn) was to cut it off the cobs and divide it into two equal portions, the half in the blender container will be used for the sauce. 

  

The next task is to use the back of your knife (carefully) to extract the corn milk for the sauce. After you cut the corn, there is still a part of each kernel stuck in the cob, that along with any liquid from those kernels is what you are scraping out. I took a picture of before and after side by side so that you can see the objective. This gets added to the kernels in the blender.

      

Then I chopped my bacon. I always am a bit heavy handed with the bacon, since my youngest assures me that everything is better with bacon. 

  

I also minced my garlic and finished adding the ingredients for the sauce and blended it up. N

    

While I took care of this, I had started my water inside (the side burner is strong enough to maintain, but not to bring the water to a boil) and preheated the grill with the cast iron pan. So, as soon as I was done with the prep I started the bacon and the pasta.

When the bacon was close to crispy, I also started some chicken apple sausages.

When I set aside the bacon, I added my garlic to the pan, soon followed by the kernels of corn and cayenne pepper.

    

At this point it all comes together rather quickly, drain the pasta and put it into a large bowl with ½ of your cooked kernels, ½ of the bacon, ½ of the basil, the Parmesan, and all of the sauce.

    

Once you thoroughly toss this together, the rest of the toppings go on the top and you serve with additional Parmesan. 

Simply awesome. Served with a simple Greek salad and fresh bread. 

  

Fresh Corn Carbonara

Makes 4 Servings ∙ Source Bon Appétit | August 2015
INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels cut off (about 3 cups), cobs reserved
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces), plus more to serve
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped, divided

DIRECTIONS

Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove excess grease from skillet; keep 2-3 Tbsp. Add garlic to the skillet sauté briefly then add corn kernels and stir in cayenne, cook until some are blackened and all warmed through, ~5 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain.

While pasta is cooking, scrape excess corn milk from cobs into a blender or food processor by firmly running the back of a chef’s knife down the sides. Add cream, half of the corn kernels, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Purée until a smooth sauce forms.

Toss hot pasta with corn sauce, ½ cup Parmesan, and half each of the remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil in a large bowl.

Divide pasta among bowls and top with remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil. Season with pepper and top with Parmesan

Grad Party – Part 3

Today I made the glaze for the ribs after removing the last of the fat from my collected drippings. 

To my concentrated drippings I added the rest of my cheap balsamic vinegar (yes, cheap, only suitable as a marinade and for concentrating). And an equal part of water with 2 cups of dark brown sugar and proceeded to further concentrate the glaze.

    

After a couple of hours I had a thick vinegary sauce.


I also whipped up the dressing for my cole slaw that I’m planning to make on Saturday morning, since it is always better if you make it a day in advance. The dressing is very simple; I prefer a vinegar base to a creamy sauce. Sugar, vinegars (white wine, red wine, apple cider, and raspberry because I ran out of the red), and oil go into the blender.

        
This will keep in the fridge easily.

We’ve also been trying to minimize other food in the fridge, so have been keeping dinners simple this week: M-pizza, T-brats, W-sushi, and my hubby suggested cold cuts for dinner and my grad has friends over so I whipped up my version of Italian subs. It is fresh baguette, olive oil, olive tapenade, Prosciutto, hot capicola, peppered salami, fresh mozzarella, and basil.


Grad Party – Part 2

Between yesterday and today I have finished up the ribs. After each batch has cooked, I have collected the drippings in my stock pot. Tomorrow I’ll be making the glaze with it, but in the meantime I’ve been reducing it so that it all fits in the stock pot. I’ve also been skimming off the fat from the top, which is easiest to do after it’s been chilling in the fridge. This image is just after my final addition.  


With that done, I’m onto the mac and cheese. I’m made this before with the mention that it scales well. I’ll be making four triple batches for this party and it’s quite the pile of ingredients (just ignore the beer). 

My first task was to spray my pans; a loss of mac and cheese to the side of a pans is tragic! After that on to mixing the eggs, cheeses, and sour cream with a healthy dose of salt and pepper. I used my scale to weigh the pasta and cheddar that I purchased in bulk (with the tare set at 1 lb.). 

           
I rinsed the pasta with cold water before stirring it in, since these are going in the fridge rather than the oven. 

  

And then I topped each pan with panko and covered them so that they would be all set. 

I had a little bit left, so it looks like I’ll have 13 ½-trays at the end. 


Only 3 batches more to go and more to come tomorrow. 

Red Pozole

I promised my sister another weeknight recipe. And this is certainly easy, the trick is it takes 2 hours to simmer. My son had a fundraiser for his lacrosse team on a night I had time to cook. The following day was karate with no time, so this was a perfect fit in the meal plan. 

I did all the work so that it could simmer while we were gone; the smell when we got home was amazing! We were already excited to have dinner the next day.

I saved this recipe a few years ago, and I’m very glad I did since the link I downloaded it from no longer contains the recipe. The recipe calls for either country ribs or pork shoulder, use a boneless pork shoulder if you are in a hurry, but otherwise the ribs add a unique element with a mix of loin and rib meat.

As usual, I gathered all of my ingredients.

And before cleaning the meat I used my cutting board and favorite knife on the veggies. The soup doesn’t end up hot, just flavorful, but the peppers can be hot; if you don’t want the residue on your hands, wear gloves to pull off the stems and shake out the seeds. 

The onion only needs to be coarsest chopped.

  

  
Then I seared the peppers in a hot dry pan and set them aside to cool. 

    

And when I could touch them I crumbled them into my blender and then poured boiling water over them to soften them. 

  

In the same pan that I roasted the peppers, I sautéed the onions and minced garlic.

    

When they were soft and nicely colored from the chili peppers, I added them to the peppers. 

  

Blending them to a purée, yielded a beautiful thick sauce.

  

I started to clean the meat while the onions softened, but had to stop a few times. Once you make the sauce it can sit while you finish cleaning the pork. You can see each had a wedge of bone in the middle; I used about 4.5 pounds of bone-in ribs to get 3 pounds of meat. 

  
I cooked the pork in 2 batches, each seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper. 

  

When both batches were done I returned them all to the pan and added in the purée and chicken stock. (Hint: Use the chicken stock to rinse your blender.) Then add in the rinsed hominy and oregano. 

      

Once it came to a boil, I reduced it to a simmer and came home to this beautiful pot of soup. 

For toppings, I shredded a block of queso fresco and shredded a few radishes. 

  

  

When I finally got to taste it the following day with my cucumber G&T, it was perfect.


Warming Red Pozole

Soups Stews etc., Tested and Approved!
Makes 10 to 12 ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Epicurious.com | Food52 | February 2015

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 dried New Mexico chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder or country style ribs, cut into ¾” cubes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cans hominy, drained and rinsed
  • Water

Toppings:

  • Cabbage, shredded finely
  • Radishes, sliced thinly
  • Limes, quartered for squeezing
  • Avocado, cut into small chunks
  • Tortilla chips or corn tortillas
  • Cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • Crumbled queso fresco or your cheese of choice

DIRECTIONS

Toast chiles in a dry pan over high heat for a few minutes until slightly browned. As you heat them, they should puff up, soften, and become fragrant. Remove from pan, let cool, and cut or tear roughly. Pour 1 cup boiling water over them to soften them for 15 minutes.

Add oil to a large, heavy pot and turn the flame to medium high. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions have softened and colored. Remove from heat and add them to the blender with the chiles and their liquid. Purée until smooth.

Put pot back on high heat and brown the pork in two batches. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper to each batch as the pieces brown. 

Add all pork back to pot along with chile liquid, chicken stock, oregano, and hominy. The liquid should completely cover the pork. (Add more stock if necessary.) Bring to boil then lower to simmer. Cover the pot and cook the stew over low heat for 2 hours.

While the pozole cooks, get toppings ready.

To serve: Ladle pozole into bowl. Top with cabbage, radishes, and any other toppings. Squeeze a healthy dose of lime juice into your bowl and dig in!

NOTES

This recipe was originally published on Food52 as “Warming Red Pozole”.

Dinner for Two

With our eldest in France and our youngest with activities that run through dinner we are finding ourselves learning what life will be like once they in turn leave for college. Tonight’s dinner is just the two of us and there are no allergies to contend with. When I went to the store, I had most of a grocery list, but only fish in mind for tonight. At the meat counter I pursued the selection and was excited to find beautiful yellowfin tuna (1¼” thick steaks)  for only $10/lb. and that is all we needed! With the weather abnormally awesome today (66 and sunny – in Michigan) I quickly decided on grilled tuna with a citrus pepper crust, lemon garlic broccoli, and couscous. I also came across shishito peppers in the produce section and decided that they would make a great appetizer. 

I started by making the citrus pepper marinade/crust by zesting ½ of an orange, lemon, and lime and adding the juice from the lemon and lime halves. (I always cut the end off the lemon so it juices better.) 

  
I then chopped the leaves of a few sprigs of parsley and a sprig of basil that I had on hand. 

    
I added a very generous amount of pepper, about ½ teaspoon of coarse salt and two very large cloves of garlic, then covered the mix with olive oil (1-2 Tbsp.).

      
Then I patted the tuna dry with paper towels and coated them with the marinade and set them aside. (You need to wait at least 20 minutes, but can set them in the fridge for up to an hour.)

  
I also cleaned the peppers and the broccoli. 

  
The peppers are simple, cook them in hot oil over medium heat until they blister, ~3-5 minutes. When they are done, drain them briefly on paper towels, squeeze fresh lemon (¼ lemon/pound) on them, and sprinkle them with coarse sea salt. (YUM!!! This was inspired by a dish at The Sardine Room in Plymouth.) 

          


While we had our tasty appetizer, I was heating the grill. 

After our appetizer I started the couscous and broccoli, adding the lemon to the broccoli after 5 minutes and with only 5 minutes left on the couscous I started the tuna on the hot grill. 

        

  
The tuna should be served rare, so it only takes 2½ minutes per side. After the first side, I added the garlic to the broccoli. 

  
All was perfect. 

Updated Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken

My motivation for dinners come from several places, tonight it was from a Facebook post my husband shared with me earlier in the week. It was almost correct and I immediately replied to the post with a few suggestions including the omission of garlic powder in favor of garlic cloves. When I went to cook it today, I realized that the recipe didn’t match the video and ultimately I made a few other changes. The recipe below includes all of the edits. 

I began with prep work, ending with the chicken. 

  

  

  

  

The cooking is very simple, starting with the garlic and shallots. 

  

   

Followed by the chicken after setting aside the shallots. 

  

I had also started the water for the pasta. 

When I set aside the chicken, I started the pasta and the cream sauce. 

  

    

  

  

It all came together beautifully at the end. 

  

  

Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken

Paprika Recipe File

Entrées, Pastas, Poultry, Tested and Approved!

Makes 4 ∙ Source: Inspired by Getinmybelly.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 jar (~7 oz.) sun dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced, optional
  • 1½-2 lbs chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, cut into strips (~1″ thick)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 cups baby spinach (not packed), washed
  • 1½ cups parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
  • ½-1 lb. farfalle (bowtie) pasta

DIRECTIONS

Drain the sun dried tomatoes and reserve the oil. Slice the tomatoes into thin strips and set aside.

Season the chicken well with the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

In a large skillet heat the reserved olive oil over medium high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the smashed garlic and sliced shallot (if using) and cook until the garlic is fragrant or the shallots are crispy, remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Discard the garlic.

Cook the chicken in the oil on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, until browned and cooked until no longer pink in center. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, and cook pasta as directed.

Remove chicken and set aside on a plate.

Add the heavy cream, chicken broth, and minced garlic. Whisk over medium high heat until it starts to thicken, then add parmesan and continue to stir.

Add the shallots, sundried tomatoes, and spinach and let it simmer until the spinach starts to wilt.

Add the chicken back to the pan and then the pasta stirring to combine.

Serve with additional parmesan.

Not Enough Leftovers

We had 10 boys for dinner on Sunday, I had about 5½ lbs. of flat iron steak that I marinated for fajitas. I also sautéed 3 large sweet onions, 3 bell peppers, and 3 poblano peppers. I was planning on using the leftovers to make steak wraps for dinner today. Only 1 problem with the plan, after dinner the meat was gone. No one was hungry, but my Tuesday plans were shot. 


I still had peppers and onions, along with my baked black beans and tomatillo guacamole. So when I finally got to think about what to do for dinner when I got in my car today, I really wanted to figure out how to use it. I thought, I’ll just do soft tacos, it’s easy. When I called my husband, he suggested I look for chorizo and my plan took form. 

I picked up chorizo and thin center cut pork chops, and I set to work dicing the chops. There isn’t much fat on these, but I removed it anyway. 

  

First I browned the chorizo, and it released beautiful, flavorful oil into my pan. 

  
I set aside the chorizo, and lightly sautéed the pork in the same pan with a bit of cumin, oregano, and chipotle chili pepper sprinkled on it. 

  

  

When it was done I set that with the chorizo until everyone was ready to eat. Tuesdays my older son is working and my younger son is training for lacrosse, so only my husband and I eat together. On a good note this meant I had the time to reheat in my skillet rather than the microwave (ok for lunches, but I prefer not to use). 

My boys ate individually and for each of them I prepped all in the skillet and used the stove to heat the tortillas. 

  

It was similar for my husband and me; we used both the corn and flour tortillas. 

Delicious, and no wasted food. 

Bacon Makes EVERYTHING Better

Sadly, I still don’t think my sister will try this recipe. 

The main ingredient is One of my faves, butternut squash. It falls in her least favorite foods, orange vegetables. 

A few years ago, I saved a Bon Appétit recipe for a butternut squash pasta. I hadn’t tried it because it called for half of a butternut squash (seriously…what do you do with the other half). 

When we went to pick up our Christmas tree from our corner farm market they were giving away a new butternut squash variety they had planted; it harvested late so they had extras for free. I grabbed a couple and kept them in the garage, each a perfect half squash. 

I started with the squash, peeling and then shredding with my food processor. 

  

And then I diced my pancetta. 

  

And sliced the sage.

That is all of the prep work before starting the water for the pasta. 

This includes a few modifications to the original recipe: pancetta (as mentioned, bacon makes EVERYTHING better), the length for browning the butternut squash, and freshly ground pepper (which I should have added to the squash during cooking instead of just at the end). 

While the water took its time coming to a boil, I cooked my pancetta. 

  

Once it was crispy I set it aside to drain on paper towels and added butter to the pan. I also used this opportunity to add the pasta to my now boiling water.

  

  

I cooked the squash and sage similar to how I cook hash browns, stirring occasionally and allowing the bottom to brown between stirring. 

  

When the pasta was done I added it to the squash with pasta water (ultimately about 1½ cups), the pancetta, and Parmesan.

  

  

Meanwhile, my husband washed some lettuce for a salad and used a loaf of roasted garlic bread to make a nice accompaniment.

And while eating was really the best part, I was very excited to use the new pasta dishes that I received from my MIL for Christmas. 

Ultimately an easy weekday meal. 
Pasta with Butternut Squash

Paprika Recipe File

Entrées, Pastas, Pork, Tested and Approved!

Makes 6 servings ∙ Source Bon Appétit | February 2013

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ lb. pancetta, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ~5 cups shredded butternut squash (from about 1½-2 lbs. peeled squash; shredded with the coarse grating attachment on a food processor or on a box grater)
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh sage
  • pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 pound fiorentini, campanelle, or other short curled pasta
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano plus more

DIRECTIONS

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While it comes to a boild, cook pancetta in large skillet over medium-high heat. When crispy, set aside with a slotted spoon in a dish lined with paper towels.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook as directed for al dente.
Melt the butter in the oil and increse the heat to high. Add squash and sage, season with pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to brown, about 8-10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium.

Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to squash and stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Stir in ½ cup Parmesan.

Divide pasta among bowls; top with more Parmesan.