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i’m about as far from a health nut as a person could get (i’m a candy fiend), but i like to think that me and my taste buds don’t discriminate when it comes to food. it can be really good for you or really bad for you, but if it tastes good, we’re down. it might surprise you to hear that lots of healthy foods can also be pretty damn delicious. case in point: kale. kale is soo hot right now, so if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably been living under a rock. it’s been lauded on “superfood” lists for the past few years, and comes in many different varieties. a tough, leafy green, kale can be made many ways – sliced in a salad (i once made a meannnn kale caesar), sautéed with garlic, added to sausage and leek soup…the possibilities are endless. lest i bore you by waxing poetic about the many uses of kale, let me tell you about one of my favorite ways to use it: in a pesto. Image

pesto is typically thought of as a basil + cheese + nuts + olive oil sort of deal, but the truth is, you can make pesto from any number of greens, kale included. after “making out like a little bandito” (like my mother loves to say when she gets a good deal) at fairway the other weekend, i took to my kitchen determined to try something different with my kale.Kale Arugula Lemon Pesto

enter: kale and arugula pesto with a splash of lemon. i made this up, but i bet a quick google search would show that i’m not at all original. oh well – great minds think alike, right? since i made it up, my measurements aren’t exactly scientific. but the thing about making pesto is that you have to be willing to stick your finger in there and investigate every so often. taste is everything, and everyone’s taste buds are different.

here’s what you’ll need:

– one large bunch of kale, separated from its stems

– approximately a heaping cup of arugula (you can add more if you’d like, these measurements are fluid)

– about 1/2 cup of olive oil

– the zest and juice of one lemon

– 4 garlic cloves, diced

– 1-2 tsp of nutmeg

– salt and pepper, to taste

– 1 cup walnuts

– 1 cup parmesan cheese

to make:

bring a pot of water to boil. blanch your kale – a few minutes should do it. you just want to soften the leaves a little bit; kale can be a bit tough to chew otherwise. while your kale is cooking, chop your garlic and zest your lemon.

once kale is softened, drain it and dump it into a food processor. add arugula, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, walnuts, parm and 1 tsp of nutmeg. blend. it’ll take a few minutes, but it’ll all start to come together, and you’ll know if you need to drizzle in a bit more olive oil. some people like their pesto super creamy, others don’t. once things have settled, stick your finger in and do a taste test. if you’d like, add more nutmeg, and then season with salt and pepper. you could also add more nuts or more cheese if you’d like. more cheese is always a good idea, in my opinion.

serve with freshly cooked pasta (and fresh pasta, if you’ve got it). then, stick the leftovers in a ball jar and refrigerate. pesto should keep about a week in the fridge; you can freeze it for long term use.

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you know that phrase “stressed is desserts” spelled backwards? well, sometimes i think stressed is carbs, spelled…i don’t know how. basically, what i’m trying to say is that as much as i love sweets (hello, blog name), there comes a time in a girl’s life (or day) when she just wants to eat carbs.

enter, a big bowl o’ pasta. i ask you, is there anything carbs can’t cure? a pot of penne can sop up a lot of tears, and we all know pasta cooks in salt water. yesterday was a long day, and even though it included a mini cupcake from crumbs, i still came home wanting nothing more than to cuddle up on the couch with some spaghetti and watch my DVR-ed episode of SVU. of course, the fact that SVU wasn’t new this week was a major let down, but i made do with nashville. can’t win ’em all!

i did, however, luck out with this super easy pasta recipe that’s sopped in garlic and freshened up by lemon zest and italian flat leaf parsley. i found it here, and i’d highly recommend it. this thing is YUMMY. major kudos to the chef. i didn’t measure as closely as the original recipe and so i’ve rewritten it slightly below. i’d recommend this dish for long days, when you want something delicious but don’t feel like slaving over the stove, or when you’re having company over, and you want to look like you’re an amazing italian chef who just happened to end up in new york (if you go this route, might i suggest an italian accent to go with)? no, but really. make this. it’s easy. and so, so good. Image

 The Recipe: Lemon Pasta with Parsley and Parmesan

 You’ll need:

 * 3/4 lb spaghetti ( I used the Trader Joe’s brand)

* 5 garlic cloves, minced

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

* the zest of 2 large lemons

* the juice of one large lemon (about 1/3 cup)

* salt and pepper to taste

* a whole lot of pram

 To make:

First things first: cook spaghetti as directed in a large pot of salted water. While pasta is cooking, prep your other ingredients (yes, it’s that easy).

First, heat olive oil and butter on low in a small saucepan. Don’t turn it on high, your butter will burn. Mince your garlic, and add it to your olive oil/butter mixture and turn the heat up slightly. Cook until tender and fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing right about now), about 3-5 minutes. While it’s cooking, zest and juice your lemons.

Drain pasta and place into a large serving bowl. Dump garlic and olive oil mixture atop of pasta and stir to incorporate evenly. Inhale. Exhale, and toss pasta with parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Resist the urge to take a bite right now. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and toss with freshly grated parmesan.

 Now, you can take a bite. Go ahead. See? I told you so. It’s good. Just try not to eat the whole thing (but I won’t blame you if you can’t help it).

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remember that time i lost my job and i thought my life was over and so i started a blog, thinking it would be my saving grace? me too. and for a little while, it was – my saving grace, that is – because it kept me sane, and made me feel like i was doing something productive with my life.

and of course, i had delusional dreams of publishing a beautifully shot (by someone else, my photos are all instagram, all the way) cookbook someday, and maybe of being a guest on the martha stewart show, and telling my kids that i found my true calling when i got laid off.

but then i got a new job. and it was (is) wonderful, but hard. and time-consuming. and so while i’ve still been cooking (though not as much), i haven’t been blogging. for the three of you that have asked why, here’s why: i’ve been swamped at work, and when i come home, or am home, i’m too sleepy to type up a blog post. meanwhile, i haven’t been too sleepy to work my way through three seasons of the good wife (which, by the way, is THE BEST SHOW EVER and you must watch it) or to take pictures of my cat sleeping in my dresser drawer or to buy the perfect fall hat. clearly, my priorities are a little out of whack.

but thankfully, things have slowed down a bit, and i feel like i finally have brain space to start contributing to my blog again, so here i am – you know, for the three people that still read it/wonder what i’ve been making.

so, what have i been making? lots of things, one of which is what my family affectionately calls “red chicken” – we’re so creative, aren’t we? red chicken is one of the simplest, yet most delicious, recipes around. it’s a great crowd pleaser for a dinner party, it only takes about 2 hours to make, start to finish, including cooking time, and chances are, you already have everything you need to make it in your pantry. so while it’s not exactly “fast” food, it is simple but yummy food.

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We look alike, don’t we?

my mother has been making this chicken for as long as i can remember. it’s what she cooked when she got home from work early enough to make something nice. it’s what she cooked as soon as the leaves turned and the humidity  magically disappeared from the air. so, it’s no surprise that it’s also what i cook as soon as the leaves turn and the humidity magically disappears from the air. a couple of weekends ago, armed with a few bottles of superb gruner vetliner (an austrian white wine that’s uber delish) and a whole lot potatoes and onions from the farmer’s market, i set out to throw my own mini dinner party, complete with 3 hungry friends and a 4 pound chicken.

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Biased foodie friends

now, my friends are biased, but according to them, this recipe is GOOD. and i’ve been eating it for 20 years and i’m still not sick of it, so that must say something, right? want to make it for yourself and wow your own friends? here’s what to do.

The Recipe

there are no measurements to this baby – it’s true fly by the seat of your pants cooking.

step 1: purchase a chicken – size is up to you; 4 pounds fed me and three friends with leftovers.

step 2: dump a couple of tablespoons of paprika into a small bowl – you want enough to cover the bottom and then some. next, add a layer of garlic powder. then add some salt and pepper. swirl the mixture around with your finger and then pop a finger in your mouth. taste the spices. see what you think. it should be mostly paprika, but you want a definite garlic flavor in there too. add more spices according to your tastes. don’t worry, you can’t mess this up.

step 3: chop up about four potatoes and 2 yellow onions – not small; bigger than bite size. you want to cover the bottom of your baking pan with potatoes and onions, so if your chicken/pan is bigger, you might need more (or you might need less). again, you can’t  mess this up. go with your gut. spread potatoes and onions out in the bottom of your baking pan.

step 4: mix in a little bit of water to your spice mixture – enough to form a paste. stir.

step 5: put the chicken on top of the potatoes/onions. now, use your fingers (wash them first!) to spread the paste all over the chicken. if you can stomach it, get the spice paste under the skin. this will make it taste better.

step 6: there will still be a bit of paste left in your bowl. instead of rinsing it and throwing it in the dishwasher, fill the bowl up with water. this will act as your initial “marinade” – so pour it around the chicken. you don’t have to fully cover the potato/onion layer, but make sure there’s at least 1/2 inch of water around the perimeter.

step 7: bake at 350 for about 1.5-2 hours. the time will vary based on your oven.

step 8: MOST IMPORTANTLY: baste your chicken every 20 minutes with the “marinade” you made at the base of the pan. you will probably have to add more water to the base of the pan every so often – this is fine, the spices will begin to drip down from the chicken as it bakes, making for a yummy sauce.

step 9: your chicken is done when a meat thermometer reads about 165 degrees. insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken (the breast) to test the temperature.

step 10: to serve, divvy up the potatoes and onions into a bowl, and slice the chicken, then plate it. use your baster to suck up all the extra gravy you’ve made over the course of cooking time, and serve that with the chicken as well – the extra gravy is what makes it.

MMM MMMM GOOD!

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i can’t help it. anytime i think nachos, i think bad jokes. it’s like the two are inextricably connected in my brain. crazy. speaking of crazy, you want to hear something crazy? crazy is that my roommate “doesn’t really like snacks.” as in, she’s not a grazer. she doesn’t open the fridge and stand there thinking, “i need a lil’ somethin’ somethin’.” EVER. this blows my mind. i am a huge snacker. i overpack my lunch every day just in case i need a string cheese at 3PM or some popcorn at 4. at night, i crunch rainbow-colored NERDS on my couch while i watch house hunters, and sometimes, i stuff my face with trader joe’s cheesy popcorn. hi my name is sarah and i can’t live without snacks.

so it’s totally baffling to me that a person could say something like, “i don’t really snack.” SAY WHAAA, GIRL? but you know what, you guys? i made her snack last night. yes indeedy i did. and it was all thanks to the magical power of these nachos – which, by the way, take less than five minutes to throw together and require NO MEASURING CUPS OR SPOON AT ALL. easiest “recipe” ever.

The Recipe

(all measurements are approximate – but here’s what i’d estimate i used)

1 cup shredded mexican cheese (mine is from TJ’s)

1 can black beans (mine are from TJ’s)

about 3/4 cup of pico de gallo (the roughly chopped kind, not the tostitos kind you buy in a glass container at the supermarket)

1/2 cup of corn (i used fresh off the cob, but frozen would do)

sour cream, for dipping.

chips, of course.

ready for the hard part? spread your chips out on a plate. then sprinkle with cheese. you want the cheese to be the bottom layer so that it melts straight onto the chips. YUM CHEESE. next sprinkle your beans and corn on, then top with salsa, and if you’re a cheese-a-holic like i am, MORE CHEESE. now, microwave for a minute or two.

GIRL, you have just made some seriously kickass nachos.

optional other add ons, if you’ve got ’em: chopped cilantro (I HAD THIS WHY DID I NOT USE IT?!), chopped avocado/guacamole, a sprinkle of fresh lime juice, chopped chicken or beef. nachos are like a garbage can that tastes really good. you can put ANYTHING on there, and as long as you add cheese and melt that ish, you’re guaranteed a party in your mouth.

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foodie confession: i hate seafood with a pretty intense passion. i make a small exception for shrimp (but i am very picky about the size and texture of a given shrimp) and in the past few years, for salmon, but other than that, i don’t go under the sea, ever. no lobster. no clams. oysters? gross. i’ll take my dinner without slurping down a slimy shell-filler, thank you very much. i have no interest in figuring out flounder, or appreciating escargot. it’s just not my thing. i hate the smell of fish; i gag when i walk down the street in chinatown. but in an effort to be more adventurous (remember my strawberry disaster in paris?), i’ve recently introduced salmon into my eating arsenal. i like it extremely well done (again, i don’t like slimy foods), and pretty much smothered in flavor so i can’t taste the fishiness.

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“Color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two!”

lucky for me, this recipe checks all of those boxes. by wrapping the salmon in parchment paper, you ensure that, while it doesn’t dry out, it cooks out all the slime. plus, it seals in the flavor. by topping it with the orgasmic combination that is sesame oil, soy sauce and grated ginger, you ensure that all the fishiness goes out the window, and by laying it on a bed of mushrooms, you get, well…shrooms. but who doesn’t love shrooms? especially when they’ve cooked down and are also smothered in sesame soy? color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two!

this dinner was super easy to make, and it comes courtesy of miss martha stewart (duh). the queen has cometh down from her throne to share with us a salmon dish that makes even fish-haters salivate in excitement. martha’s recipe uses pea shoots and shiitake mushrooms, but i’m a cheapskate and had neither on hand, so i swapped arugula in place of the pea shoots and regular brown button and sliced portobello mushrooms in place of the shiitakes. i also may have added extra soy sauce and oil, but that’s because, as i said, i like my salmon positively drenched in flavor.

note: i generally cook for one or two – one serving for dinner, one for leftovers. someday, i hope i have a boyfriend or a husband and a cat and a family and a big kitchen with a giant island. then i can use the actual measurements and cook for a family of four. but right now, it’s just me and penny, and penny doesn’t like salmon (a gal after my own non-seafood heart, that feline is!). i also, as i said, like extra sauce – so my measurements are different than martha’s. but this is the sort of recipe where you can totally improvise, so just keep adding till your sauce tastes good. got too much sauce? girl, that’s what tupperware is for!

The Recipe

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (my fave brand is kikkoman)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (i used brown button and portobello)
  • 1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless salmon fillets, preferably wild sockeye
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons toasted-sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cup arugula, loosely packed

to make, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. prepare your parchment paper by cutting a piece large enough to hold your salmon and then some, and folding it down the middle to create a crease. open it back up. essentially, what you’re doing is creating a little envelope/pocket sort of thing to keep your salmon in while it cooks.

next, mix the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and just a splash of sesame oil in a medium sized bowl, and toss with the sliced mushrooms. lay the mushrooms out on the parchment – you’re making a little bed for the salmon to lay on. now, place your salmon atop the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. drizzle with your remaining sesame oil (and feel free to add more if you feel so inclined).

tuck or gather the parchment paper so that your salmon fillet(s) are wrapped up. you want to keep the heat and flavors in that baby, so wrap it up tight.

bake for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets). remove, and season immediately with sesame seeds and top with arugula. i served mine with white rice and steamed broccoli, and it was DELISH.

Kale Parsley Pesto Pastaa few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me here in NYC, and brought with them a bevy of fresh fruits and veggies – some from fairway, and others that had been hand delivered to my mother by her farm worker patients at the government-funded health center where she works.

let’s back up a bit. the town where i grew up is nothing short of idyllic, all rolling hills and freshly cut lawns and old victorians, with highly-rated public schools and well-paved sidewalks. it’s the sort of town where pedestrians have the right of way, where cars are required to stop for anyone on foot. the sort of town where, for the most part, everybody knows everybody. it’s the sort of town that allows lesbians on the bima at the synagogue (though my two mothers were the first at our shul to do so), the sort of town that then goes on to elect a lesbian mayor. it might not be pleasantville (our life is definitely lived in color…in the rainbow, really), but it’s pretty damn close.

which is why it’s surprising to hear that there are poorly-treated farm workers pulling sixteen hour days shelling soybeans not twenty minutes away from our picturesque new england main street. growing up in the pioneer valley, one thinks such atrocities wouldn’t occur. not in our house! not on our watch! we are a town of politically-minded left wing hippies who believe in equal rights for all. certainly, we wouldn’t allow such abuse to go on behind closed (or, heaven forbid, open!) doors. but since my mom took her job at the health center, i’ve heard quite a few horror stories, many of which come at the hands of people that are pillars of the local community. 

i’ll leave you to infer what’s gone on by reading the article above – but trust me when i say that the people my mother cares for are, for all intents and purposes, people that have been left behind by this country. their rights, if they have any, have been violated, time and time again. and yet, many of them insist that the money they make here, the treatment they receive here – it’s worth it because it enables them to support their families, many of whom are back in their home country. they tell my mother things that breaks her heart. every single day. and somehow she still gets up each morning and does it again, like a brave, proud soldier, ensuring that anyone that steps over the threshold of her waiting room door gets the care they deserve. to say i have the utmost respect for the work she does would be the understatement of a lifetime. while i sit here and type up a dinky blog post, she’s out changing the world and making it a better place for everyone, not just for those who have been deemed by society and the law to deserve it.

it’s no surprise, then, that with all she does to care for these people (and she truly goes above and beyond, every day), they like to give back to her, oftentimes by bringing her a bit of their bounty. as part of their employment as farm workers, they’re allowed to take some of what they pick, and often, they bring it to her, and she, in turn, brings it to me. this visit, i was gifted with farm fresh kale, italian parsley, and the ugliest but tastiest tomatoes i’ve ever seen.

what does one do with kale and parsley? lots of things. parsley is a great garnish, and kale can be cooked, steamed, blanched, put into a salad, a pasta dish, a soup. but for some reason, i looked at my kale and immediately thought, what about pesto? so make pesto i did, with parsley and parmesan and sliced almonds and a whole lot of garlic. and i was worried that it’d be a bit weird, but to my surprise, it was totally delicious. and i made enough to have plenty to store in my freezer for later on.

so, let’s make some pesto with a side of politics, shall we?

note: pesto is one of those things that’s really all about taste-testing. so my “measurements” are more recommendations, because you might want more or less garlic, more or less cheese, or more parsley than kale. just stick your finger into the food processor (when it’s not running, obviously) and do a little taste test now and then.

The Recipe

About 6 cups of kale, slightly chopped (i used raw, but you could blanch yours slightly if you were so inclined)

1 1/2 cups parsley (don’t throw the stems in)

1 cup parmesan cheese (i used pre-shredded, but if you buy the real thing it’ll be way better)

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or walnuts, or any nut you choose – pine nuts would be great too)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil

to make, dole out all your ingredients and throw them into your food processor. i laid my kale in there first, then my parsley, then spread my almonds and my cheese on top, as you’ll see in the picture. then in went the garlic. then i poured enough olive oil into swirl the perimeter a few times. i’d estimate it was a few tablespoons, but again, pesto is a fluid recipe. you can add more or less depending on the texture you’re looking to achieve. 

throw the top on and pulse to blend. if your pesto looks chunky, throw in a bit more olive oil and pulse some more. now, stop the motor and stick your finger (or a spoon, if you’re fancy and a germaphobe) in and have a taste. at this point, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. mine didn’t, because parm and garlic are pretty darn salty already. once it’s reached a creamy consistency, remove and either mix immediately into pasta (which i did but forgot to photograph because i was too busy stuffing my face with deliciousness), or divy up into plastic bags to freeze.

note: you can see my bags above. what i do is scoop about two heaping tablespoons into a plastic foldover baggie. then i twist the tops so they make a little hershey’s kiss shape and tie the tops off. then snip off the extra with scissors. then i throw all the little baggies into one big freezer-safe baggie, and voila – pesto, whenever i want it. this is a trick i picked up from my parents, who’ve been making their own pesto for as long as i can remember thanks to the hords of basil that they grow in their garden. god bless suburbia, huh?

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you know what starts with the letter P? pasta. and pancetta. and you know what else? pretty little liars, which is my favorite guilty pleasure show on TV (and it’s not even really a guilty pleasure because it’s just that good). last week, my PLL partner in crime and i threw together this amazing pasta dish, which i found via jamie oliver before we turned on the TV, and let me tell you, this ish is GOOD. melt in your mouth creamy, accented with the slightly tangy taste of fresh mint leaves, and oh so salty thanks to the pancetta. of course, there’s a big dose of carbs in there, and let’s be real – everyone loves carbs (except those people on the atkins diet, and i’m not really worried about them). 

my friend alissa whipped up this recipe like a champ (and girl thinks she’s not good in the kitchen! proof that anyone can follow a recipe and make something DELISH), and then we plopped down on her overstuffed couch and stuffed our faces while watching pretty teenage girls say things like, “BITCH CAN SEE!” it came together in under 20 minutes, and did i mention it’s creamy and delicious and i ate two huge helpings? (what? i was carbo-loading for my walk back down the stairs). Image

make it. i made it again the next night, and we’re making it again tomorrow. it’s not that we lack creativity – but that it’s yummy and easy and makes you look like a legitimate chef. 


The Recipe (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe for carbonara)

Makes enough for four servings, or two super hungry folks.

1 pound pasta of your choice (i like penne)

1 egg

3.5 fl oz (about 1/2 cup heavy cream)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

about 12 slices of pancetta, thinly sliced (generally, one grocery store sized package will do)

3 handfuls fresh or frozen peas 

4 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped, a few more for decorative purposes

1 cup freshly grated parmesan, for topping

to make, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add pasta and cook according to instructions (i find around 7-8 minutes to be the sweet spot for most boxed pastas, and barilla is my go-to brand). 

whisk the egg in a bowl and mix in the heavy cream and salt and pepper. in a large skillet, cook your pancetta until crispy and golden. your kitchen will smell orgasmic by now. 

when your pasta has nearly cooked (let’s say around the 6 minute mark), add the peas for the last minute or so. this will cook them ever so slightly, but won’t overdo it. when the timer dings, drain your pasta and peas and reserve a bit of the pasta water.

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dump your pasta and peas mixture into your pancetta skillet and stir. now, stir in most of your sliced mint (save a little bit for topping purposes). if you like things minty, add even more. i did, because i do. there’s really nothing like fresh mint, especially when peas are involved. note: if your pan is too small, you can do all your mixing in a large bowl – but the pan is better, because the pasta will cook a tiny bit more in a warmed environment. Image

now, add the egg and cream mixture to the pasta. you need to make sure and add it while the pasta is still hot, but while the heat isn’t actually on the pan anymore. if you’re careful, the residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs (since no one likes raw eggs); if things are too hot up in here, you’ll get a curdled, scrambled egg like sauce. GUH-ROSS. do it right (leave the pasta be for a minute or two to cool slightly, remove from heat) and you’ll get a silky smooth sauce. toss everything together and add your reserved pasta water to loosen things up a bit if need be (i needed to). 

divy up into four bowls, season again with a bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle with your remaining mint and however much parm you like (i love cheese). serve asap; this one doesn’t reheat all that well.