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. 

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Spaghetti Pie

My son says that these words do not go together. Pie is sweet dessert and spaghetti is savory dinner, but he’s learned to trust me and ate it anyway.

I mentioned to my husband that I had been seeing a lot of baked pastas in springform pans lately and that I really wanted to try one. He reads about food almost as much as I do and came across this recipe on another blog (smittenkitten.com). The Romano and black pepper with a touch of greens sold me on the dish.

As always, it is always helpful to gather all of your ingredients before you get started. One of the things you will see in this picture is my pasta, I have recently take to making sure that I use good Italian pasta (if I’m not making it); the instructions are all in Italian, but the flavor is worth it. Of course certain shortcuts are fine – my market sells some of their cheeses shredded for the same per pound price.


As the recipe instructs the broccoli rabe goes into the pasta water first; you can see I use a pasta pan which allows me to remove the broccoli without dumping the water.


I wrapped it all in a white rag and wrung it thoroughly to remove all of the water before I tossed it in a small food processor to mince it.


I had my eggs and milk ready and mixed in the cheese and broccoli rabe as instructed, followed by the pasta.


Once well mixed, it went into the wrapped springform and I topped it with the remaining broccoli rabe and cheeses.


Coming out of the oven the smell was wonderful and the look was beautiful.


It easily came out of the springform pan and I served it with a Caesar salad and Italian sausage that I braised in white wine.



Spaghetti Pie with Pecorino and Black Pepper

★★★★★

Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Source Smittenkitchen.com – NOTE: I have only made minor edits to her recipe and the following is in large part her text – Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter
  • ½ pound broccoli rabe, chopped into few-inch segments (discard tough stems)
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • 8 ounces aged pecorino cheese, finely grated, divided
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, grated, divided

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and this is very important, wrap the outside of the springform, focusing on the places where the ring meets the base, tightly in aluminum foil. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot and boil for 1 to 2 minutes, until it has some give. Fish it out with a large slotted spoon and drain it well. Set aside.

Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook until 2 minutes shy of done, so very al dente, as the spaghetti will continue cooking in the oven. Drain well and let cool slightly.

Wring all extra moisture out of the broccoli rabe and blot greens on paper towels to be extra careful. Mince rabe into very small bits. You’ll have about 1 cup total.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk together with salt and pepper. Stir in all but 1/2 cup of each cheese and chopped rabe. Add spaghetti and toss to coat.

Pour into prepared springform and sprinkle remaining broccoli rabe and cheese on top. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and a knife inserted into the center of the pie and turned slightly will not release any loose egg batter into the center. If the top of your pie browns too quickly before the center is set, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time.

Turn on your oven’s broiler. Broil the pie a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until browned on top. Cut along springform ring to loosen, then remove ring. Run a spatula underneath the pie to loosen the base and slide onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges.

NOTES

A few important cooking notes:

  1. You must wrap your springform tightly in foil or you and your oven floor will end up in a very bad mood.
  2. ONLY cook your pasta until it’s two minutes from done as it will continue cooking in the oven
  3. Remove every extra drop of moisture from the broccoli rabe or it will take very long to set.
  4. Good aged pecorino makes all the difference here in providing a salty, funky kick. You can use parmesan if it’s all you’ve got, but you might find that you need more salt if you do.

Paprika Recipe File

Pasta Salad

Tomorrow we are headed off to a potluck for the holiday, I think we’re at over 17 people so I doubled my recipe for pasta salad. This is one of the first recipes I got from my MIL and I still love it even as my palette has changed.

I always start with the pasta so that it has time to cool. I do put a little bit of the dressing on it to make sure it doesn’t stick while it cools.






Then I move onto the veggies.




Again, stirring in a little more dressing after each addition.


If I only make a single batch I use pepperoni; this is the only meat in the dish so when I increase in scale I triple the meat and normally mix in dry salami with the pepperoni.


I really like the fresh mozzarella in the salad, but it sticks together (still easier than chopping).




And then the salad supreme and more dressing.



After that I let it set overnight in the fridge and adjust the dressing and salad supreme before serving.


Pasta Salad

Salads, Tested and Approved!

Prep 1 hr ∙ Makes 8-10 ∙ Difficulty Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. rotini pasta, cooked
  • 1 lb cheese tortellini, cooked
  • 1-2 heads of broccoli, cut into bite-size flowerets
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size flowerets
  • 1 lb. mozzarella, cubed or fresh “pearl” size
  • 6-8 oz pepperoni (and/or dry salami), diced
  • 1 bottle italian dressing
  • ½-1 bottle Salad Supreme

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, preferably 1 day before serving.

NOTES

When doubling the recipe – triple the meat

Paprika file

Weeknight Meals

Tuesday

When I made my menu this past week, the one thing I wanted on it was burgers; it’s finally gotten cold here in Michigan and neither the grill nor I are fond of it. My husband got me a cast iron grill pan for Christmas so it was time to break it in. I really have been trying to add  more salads to our meals and with burgers in my head my thoughts when to other summer favorites. Asian Cole slaw came to mind; I haven’t had it in years since that little packet of “seasoning” is horrible, all salt and preservatives. I decided that someone must have solved this dilemma and set to finding an alternative.

I’m very thankful for another blog I came across, GimmeSomeOven; she solved it. I only made one intentional change: bagged Cole slaw kits don’t look appetizing to me so I shredded cabbage and carrot. I also made an unintentional change, I forgot to add the edamame in my haste.

Last, I had some leftover mac & cheese, that I modified when I made it. It was a stir and serve type of recipe and I strongly favor baked macaroni and cheese; at least in this house no one complained.

I told the boys I wanted bacon burgers and asked if they had any opinions, I got one, “can we add green onions and pepper jack cheese too?”

I started with the peppered bacon; I bake it to avoid the mess. Lay out in a single layer, place the tray in a cold oven, set the oven to 400, and bake for 12-20 minutes depending on the thickness. 
Then I formed the burgers, after a quick peek in the fridge, I put salt, pepper, garlic powder, chopped green and red onions, and barbecue sauce in them.

I then set to making the slaw, starting with the dressing:


And toasting the noodles and almonds for a nice crunch.
 I tossed it just before we ate. 

and served with a cucumber g&t

 

Wednesday

I’ve started sharing rides with another family for my son’s Wednesday training, and it has given me more time to do more for dinner. When I planned the menu, I came across a recipe for Caramel Chicken, it’s not as sweet as the name implies; the vinegar, garlic, and ginger add a bit of spice and tartness that makes it delicious. Rather than the asparagus I had on my menu I remembered that I still had some extra cauliflower and broccoli in the veggie drawer which I cut up and roasted. Roasting broccoli and/or cauliflower is fairly easy, on a rimmed cookie sheet drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then add you flavor of choice (I squeezed half of a lemon over the veggies). Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes.

Thursday

By far the easiest meal on the day of eating; I made it on Sunday. I definitely recommend making this in advance, the potatoes help to thickest the soup as it rests in the fridge, and the flavor become richer. Mine didn’t have any fat to remove, but as I’ve mentioned before, I trim my beef really well.

 

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad

Prep 10 mins ∙ Cook 10 mins ∙ Makes About 8 servings ∙ Source Gimmesomeoven.com

INGREDIENTS

Salad Ingredients:

  • ½ cabbage, shredded
  • ½-1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages of ramen noodles, crumbled (discard the seasoning packet)
  • 1 cup shelled and cooked edamame
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and julienned (or diced)
  • ½ cup thinly-sliced almonds
  • ½ cup thinly-sliced green onions (scallions)

Asian Vinaigrette Dressing

  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup honey (or agave)
  • ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • pinch of salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS

To Make The Salad:

(Optional first step: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the crumbled ramen noodles and sliced almonds out on a baking sheet, and stir a bit to combine. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the almonds and noodles are slightly toasted and golden. Remove baking sheet, and give the mixture a good stir to toss. Then return it to the oven and toast for an additional 3 minutes. Keep a very close eye on the mixture so that it does not burn. Remove and set aside.)

Add ingredients (including the vinaigrette) together in a large bowl, and toss until combined.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (This salad is much better eaten the first day, as the noodles lose their “crunch” the longer it sits, and the avocado may brown a bit.)

To Make The Vinaigrette:

Whisk all ingredients together until combined.


Green Chile Macaroni & Cheese

Prep 45 mins ∙ Cook 30 min ∙ Makes 4-6 ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Food.com | Roaring Fork Restaurant

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 fresh poblano chiles, 1 chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. macaroni, cooked
  • 4 cups grated cheese (mexican, cheddar)
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • Panko, for topping (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Char 2 poblano chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to paper bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chile. Transfer to processor; puree until smooth. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add corn; stir 1 minute.

3. Add cream and chile puree, bring to boil. Add cooked macaroni and grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a 9×13″ pan sprayed with nonstick spray and sprinkle with panko. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.

Caramel Chicken

Makes 4 ∙ Source Bonappetit.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2½-3 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken legs and thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ⅓ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (or more) unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 slices ¼”-thick slices peeled ginger
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Cooked white rice (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and, working in 2 batches, cook until golden brown and crisp, 6–8 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. Add garlic to pot and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to plate with chicken. Pour off fat from pot.

Return pot to medium-high heat and add ½ cup water, scraping up browned bits. Add brown sugar; stir to dissolve, then cook, stirring, until mixture thickens and turns a deep amber color, about 4 minutes. Carefully add vinegar (it may bubble up; sugar will crystallize); stir to dissolve sugar.

Add ginger, broth, and soy sauce, then add chicken, skin side up, and garlic.


 Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until chicken is cooked through, 20–25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Bring cooking liquid to a boil and cook until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Return chicken to pot; turn to coat. Top with scallions and serve with rice.



Irish Beef Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings ∙ Source Bon Appétit | March 2001

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1¼ pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6-8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup porter beer
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut in ½” pieces
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

  

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.

    
Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. 
Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.Meanwhile, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes.


   Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes.


Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. (Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.) Transfer stew to serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.