February 29, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower and Barley Salad

As I mentioned yesterday, I am trying to use up pantry, fridge and freezer items and a bag of pearled barley was next up to the plate. I had purchased a head of cauliflower (on sale!) and knew I had to use it before Marshal Mike got home from his Army-mandated trip to Georgia because he insists that he doesn't like cauliflower. (I still try to make him eat it every now and then.)

I found this gem of a recipe on Food52. I didn't make the basil croutons because I didn't have any basil on hand, so I just toasted some breadcrumbs from the freezer. Also, I found my barley didn't take 45 minutes to get tender - more like 30-35 minutes and my cauliflower took 25-30 minutes to get brown and tender. I also used parsley instead of celery leaves and forgot the pine nuts. This dish keeps well and tasted even better two days later for lunch.

February 28, 2012

Creamy Orecchiette with Bacon and Peas

This dish was inspired by the traditional Italian pasta dish Farfalle with Prosciutto and Peas, which has always been one of my favorites. I was consciously trying to use up items in the fridge, freezer and pantry, and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I love recipes that are adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand, but that still retain elements of the original that made it great in the first place. This dish is a perfect marriage of salty crisp bacon, chewy pasta, and delightful green peas that pop when you bite into them, all held together in a creamy sauce.

Creamy Orecchiette with Bacon and Peas
Serves 3

6 slices center cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb orecchiette
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz mascarpone
4 oz heavy cream
handful flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp; transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

3. Return the skillet with bacon grease to medium heat. Cook the onions until soft and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas; heat for 1 minute and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mascarpone and heavy cream and heat until the mascarpone melts. Add the pasta. (I felt like the sauce was a little thick at this point, so I added a little of the pasta water.)

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon and parsley. Taste for seasoning and serve.

February 23, 2012

Johnny Marzetti

I find non-descriptive recipe titles to be unhelpful at best. Take this recipe, for example. It is called "Johnny Marzetti" and when I told MM that is what we are having for dinner, he stared at me with a blank expression. So I said we are having a cheesy beef and noodle casserole, and he said, that sounds great! Now, I am sure if either of us were from Ohio or Columbus, specifically, we would have known immediately what this dish was. Apparently there was an old (now closed) restaurant in Columbus, Ohio called Marzetti's and Johnny was the owner's brother and this dish was named after him. I happened to find the recipe in the December 2011 issue of Saveur.

Furthermore, while doing some internet research on this dish, I found that people in New England refer to this dish as chop suey and thinking back to the chop suey my mom used to make, this is similar.

Overall, this dish was delicious and reheats beautifully. I followed the recipe as written, but you certainly don't need as much olive oil as the recipe suggests, especially if you are using a non-stick pan. I used cremini mushrooms instead of white button mushrooms, because something about white button mushrooms really eeks me out. I also put the pan under the broiler for the last couple minutes so the top would brown. Lastly, this recipe serves way more than 6 people - at least 8.

February 21, 2012

Farro with Artichokes and Herb Salad

I really love farro and am always happy when I stumble upon a recipe using it. This recipe for Farro with Artichokes and Herb Salad is from the February 2011 issue of Food and Wine. It is similar to the Farro Salad with Winter Fruit, Pistachios and Ginger (also from Food and Wine) that I made last month. The best thing about this recipe is that everything is cooked in the same pot.

I followed the recipe as written, except I couldn't find any celery root, so I used two small kohlrabi in its place; I thought one carrot was paltry, so I used three; and I couldn't find Grana Padano cheese, so I used Parmigiano-Reggiano. The bright acidity of the white wine vinegar and the freshness of herb salad complement the farro and vegetables perfectly; without it, the dish would be one-note and disappointing. The farro and vegetables easily made five servings, but the herb salad barely made three servings, so I would recommend doubling the herb salad. I boxed the farro and the herb salad separately for leftovers and both held up well after a night in the fridge.

February 16, 2012


I made a couple good repeat dishes this week and I thought I would remind you about them in case you are searching for something to make for dinner!

Forbidden Rice with Roasted Vegetables: This time around I used 2 medium sweet potatoes, 2 large parsnips and 1 carrot, which was about 5 cups of vegetables. There didn't seem to be quite enough dressing for that amount of vegetables, so it was a little drier than last time.

Farfalle with Kale and Lentils: This recipe never disappoints. I followed my own advice and added diced carrots to the lentils and simmered both in broth instead of water (I used the leftover beef broth from the Guinness Braised Beef, but vegetable or chicken broth would work just as well).

Cashew Chicken: I was convinced that I had written about this dish before, so I didn't take a picture, but alas, I haven't. It is a pity because it really is delicious. I found the recipe on the Bitten Word blog, but it is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. This dish comes together really quickly; the most time consuming part is marinating the chicken for 30 minutes. I served the chicken with brown rice and it doesn't mention this in the recipe, but after toasting the cashews, I roughly chopped them.


February 14, 2012

Guinness Braised Beef with Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes

We had a brief window of winter weather in DC this past weekend - it was cold, windy, dry and generally inhospitable. I decided a hearty beef stew (of sorts) was in order.

I found this recipe for Guinness Braised Beef on Chow. You could certainly treat this like a stew, but as you can see, I made a massive amount of roasted broccoli and potatoes to go with it, so I wanted to put it all on the same plate. I followed the recipe as written and we generally liked the result. I couldn't taste the bacon at all and feel like it could easily be omitted. This does taste even better the next day and would recommend having some crusty bread on hand to sop up the yummy broth.

February 13, 2012

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Feta

Our second quinoa dish was an even bigger success than the first one! I found this recipe on the popular food blog, Amateur Gourmet, and it is rightly named "The Quinoa Converter." You can't not like quinoa after trying this recipe. Similar to the rice dish I made two weeks ago, this is basically a salad with vegetables. My variation on the Amateur Gourmet's recipe is below:

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Feta
Adapted from the Amateur Gourmet
Serves 3

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted and then chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 handful parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes in a tablespoon or two of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned and soft. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil; salt generously. Add the quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey and vinegar. Continue whisking and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Pour half of the dressing over the still warm quinoa and mix with a rubber spatula. Add the sweet potatoes, walnuts, feta and herbs. Stir and add more dressing to taste. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. When packaging up my leftovers, I added a bit more dressing to the tupperware, so it wouldn't dry out and I still had about 1/2 cup dressing left over.

February 10, 2012

Risotto with Roasted Parsnips and Kale

MM and I recently went out to eat at a restaurant that we used to love, but which has gone down hill within the past couple years. It appears to be making a slight rebound as MM loved his steak. I ordered seared bay scallops, which came with lobster risotto, and was looking forward to having two seafood items that I don't make for myself at home. The scallops were great, but the risotto was terrible. The rice was mush and there was no lobster to be seen. Just tiny pieces of tomato and some spinach.When I asked the waiter about it, he said, "Oh, it is made with lobster stock, there isn't supposed to be pieces of lobster in it." Excuse me? If I make risotto with chicken stock I don't call it chicken risotto. Let's call tomato and spinach risotto what it is!

So I decided that I had to make a satisfying risotto at home. I had some parsnips and kale in the fridge that I needed to use and stumbled upon this recipe for Risotto with Parsnips and Greens in the NY Times. The recipe was created by David Tanis who is a chef at Chez Panisse and has two award-winning cookbooks, A Platter of Figs and Heart of the Artichoke. I bought Heart of the Artichoke on Gilt for a really good price and while I haven't made anything from it, the pictures are incredible and Tanis's storytelling is top-notch.

This recipe turned out well and did satisfy my craving for good risotto. I altered it slightly to be more to my liking (I prefer a higher ratio of vegetables to rice) and more streamlined for a home cook. I find that when professional chefs try to create (write) recipes for home cooks, you can still tell they are coming from a professional origin and usually use more pans than necessary and are a little fussy. (Although my adaptation still uses 3 pots and 1 baking sheet. Sorry!)

Risotto with Roasted Parsnips and Kale
Adapted from David Tanis, NY Times
Serves 4 generously

Approximately 3/4 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Approximately 3/4 lb kale, leaves torn from the stems and cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vialone nano or arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss the parsnips with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until slightly browned, about 20 minutes.

2. While the parsnips are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the kale until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, cool and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a low simmer and maintain the simmer.

4. Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice and stir until it is absorbed. Continuing adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, until it is all gone and the rice is al dente. This will take about 20 minutes. I usually start tasting the rice around the 15 minute mark. The rice should have a bite, do not overcook your risotto.

5. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parsnips, kale and some cheese. Taste for seasoning and serve with more cheese.

February 9, 2012

Orecchiette with Sausage, Beans and Mascarpone

I have made this recipe of Giada's many times and unfortunately, this time around it wasn't as good as I remember. It certainly wasn't bad, but something was a little off. The recipe is in her cookbook, Giada's Kitchen and available on the Food Network. I can never find fresh turkey sausage, so I always buy pork.

February 8, 2012

Farfalle with Beets, Kale and Pine Nuts

Pink pasta!
I am usually a very thoughtful and rational person, but for some reason I have this rather delusional reaction every time MM tells me that he doesn't like some food item (usually a vegetable). I always say, "Oh, well, you'll like it this time. Just try it." And MM will be a trooper and try it, all while making a face, choking down his dinner and strategically planning how he can feed his dinner to Patton without me noticing.

Beets happen to be one of those vegetables that MM does not like and this pasta dish from the January 2009 issue of Bon Appetit happens to be one of those recipes that I ever so gently coaxed him into eating even though I knew he probably wouldn't like it.

As you can see, I couldn't find golden beets, so I used regular old red ones, and I used kale instead of the beet greens because I happen to hate beet greens. For anyone who likes beets, you will like this recipe. If you don't like beets, this recipe won't convert you.

February 7, 2012

Lofthouse Cookies

Marshal Mike loves the supermarket sugar cookies with frosting that changes color depending on the holiday or season and I randomly came across a recipe for those very cookies, which I learned are Lofthouse cookies.

I found the recipe on the blog Two Peas and Their Pod, but a quick search will bring up a bunch of different sites with the same recipe. I found the cookies to be really dry, but MM and all of my reliable tasters at work loved them. The buttercream frosting, however, is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. The frosting does not get very hard though, which makes packaging and transporting the cookies a little messy. And a warning: when I made this recipe, I ended up with 95 cookies. It probably would have been closer to 100, but I didn't roll some of the dough as thinly as I should have. Also, do not attempt this recipe without a heavy duty stand mixer. I have a 5 quart Professional Kitchen Aid mixer and the dough was creeping up the blade and trying to jump out of the bowl. I would also recommend separating the dough into 3 sections (instead of 2) before refrigerating it - it is just easier to deal with later on.

February 3, 2012

Forbidden Rice with Roasted Vegetables

This delightful recipe from David Lebovitz is easily one of the most delicious items to come out of my kitchen in 2012 and possibly 2011 as well. By the time I had finished eating it I was already thinking about the next time I could make it. I will admit, however, and my astute readers will be shocked to hear, that when MM heard we were having rice and roasted vegetables for dinner, he was not enthused. Luckily, this recipe is so delicious that it even turned meat and potatoes MM into a rice and roasted veggie lover. For one night at least.

I followed the recipe as written except I used black forbidden rice because I had bought some awhile ago and have been wanting to try it. It was a revelation; the texture and taste is so much better than white or brown rice. I cooked it using Lebovitz's instructions. For the vegetables, I roasted 2 carrots, 3 parsnips and 1 fennel bulb. They were only about 4 cups, instead of the recommended 6 cups, but the ratio of rice to vegetables seemed fine to me. Having less vegetables did mean that the recipe only made 3 servings. Lebovitz notes that the salad dries out when chilled, so you don't want a ton of leftovers. It was fine the following day for lunch, but I think the quality would deteriorate quickly after 24 hours in the fridge.

For the dressing, I omitted the garlic because I was feeling lazy and didn't feel like chopping it and instead of plain water I used the rice cooking water. I figured that's what I would do if it was pasta, why not for rice.

February 2, 2012

Turkey and Feta Flatbread

The problem with having a pound of pizza dough in the fridge is forcing myself to not make a traditional pizza. But knowing I had bought ingredients especially for this "flatbread" was enough to overcome the traditional pizza urges!

Unfortunately, we were slightly underwhelmed by this recipe which is from the February 2012 issue of Real Simple. The first problem was the pizza dough, which we bought from Trader Joe's and which I usually like. This time around it was dry and tough - not chewy like pizza dough should be. Second, I didn't read the helpful hint on the side of the page that suggests buying 93% lean turkey and I had bought ground turkey breast, which ended up pretty dry. MM and I agreed that a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt would do wonders for this "flatbread" and when we reheated the leftovers for lunch the following day, that is exactly what we did.