Amatriciana with Bucantini

My next recipe comes from a cooking class my family took together a few years back. It was a Christmas present for my family and it ranks as one of my favorite presents.

Not only did it involve good food, but it was a bonding experience with the whole family. I think we need to do it again. It’s way better than any item someone can give you. Plus not only is it entertaining, but you learn a skill while you’re being entertained.

The cooking instructors supplied Proseco while we cooked too, which I’m sure had nothing to do with all the fun we had.

My favorite memory of the experience was all of us taking turns making our own pasta by turning the crank on the pasta machine.

My brother was probably the most delighted by it. I’ll never forget his face

The cooking instructors planned out a multiple coarse meal with 3 different types of pasta dishes for us, as well as salad with dressing we made ourselves and dessert.

I’m not going to go over each course today and will just focus on one of those meals which was Amatriciana. Amatriciana is a pork based red sauce traditionally made with pork jowl, but this recipe is Americanized and uses a different area of the pig.

This is the same recipe we used that winter night a few years ago and was given to us at the end of our lesson and meal.

What you’ll need

  • 1/2 pound of pancetta or bacon cut into 1 inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 10 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 cans of 28oz tomatoes crushed
  • 2/3 cup of dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
  •  1 pound of bucantini pasta
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese grated

The first step is to cook the pancetta in a wide frying pan over medium heat until crisp and lightly browned. Once the meat is cooked, remove from the pan and drain the greasy fat out except for a 1/2 cup’s worth. This will be used to cook with the onions.

With the reserved grease, cook the onion and pepper flakes until the onions soften which should take around 6 minutes. Then add garlic, tomatoes with the liquid, wine, and parsley. Allow this mixture to boil for 10-15 minutes.

As the sauce cooks, prepare a pot to cook your pasta in. Most Italians and myself recommend to cook the pasta al dente and to follow the instructions on the packaging.

Once the pasta is cooked, add the pancetta back into the sauce and season with salt and pepper. You are now ready to serve, like so!

IMG_0132

This is a simple pasta dish that doesn’t land too far from the tree of spaghetti bolognese or meat sauce for those of you who aren’t in the Italian know how.

Pancetta is a crisper version of bacon and bucantini for the most part is a tube version of spaghetti. One could say that it’s for people who love spaghetti bolognese but want a little bit of a change in their pasta consumption.

I personally am a fan of both sauces, but I admittedly don’t care all that much for bucantini. It’s fine, it doesn’t taste bad. I mean it’s pasta. I’m just not into tube pastas and bucantini makes me feel like I’m eating overcooked soggy spaghetti.

The sauce is easy to make and definitely satisfying to the taste buds. I do reccomend you give this dish a try, especially if you’re in a spaghetti and meat sauce rut.

*In case you’re curious, we did not make our own bucantini pasta. I do remember making ravioli, but I can’t recall if we used boxed bucantini or if we made our own spaghetti for this dish. My memory is a little fuzzy there. I blame the proseco bubbles.

 

 

 

 

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

When I was growing up, there were always TV shows were kids were like, “Ugh, Brussels sprouts! Why are you trying to kill me Mom?!”

I can’t recall if my mother ever made us Brussels sprouts, but I’m sure if she ever did I protested it. I’m sure I explained to her that t.v. had taught me that this was an evil green vegetable and was probably Jolly Green Giant’s mortal enemy.

f06a740a-bacc-45a3-83ff-4449b5bb9dad_1-8cc708f880cbfa8244065d0e59c93d2f

He’s probably just a double agent, right?

As I got older and more open, refining my taste for vegetables, I discovered that not only did I not hate Brussels sprouts, but that I freakin love them.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, this love of Brussels sprouts is not as passionate and as deep as my love for spice and cheese, but every once in awhile that green eyed beauty of a vegetable gives me a little wink and I can’t help myself. It’s an on and off again torrid affair, I’m telling you.

My first encounter with Brussels was when I was working at a pizza place that had seasonal menus and pizzas with toppings from local farmers. Every time we changed the menu, we had a special meeting where we would test out the food so we could give the proper recommendations to customers. That’s when I was introduced to Brussells sprouts and bacon pizza.

Yes, you read that right.

I know it sounds weird, but it was amazing.

We also had a side dish of Brussel sprouts sautéed in garlic with this slightly peppery ranch dressing that was to die for. Sometimes for my lunch meal, I’d get that and a side of meatballs.

Best perk working there was the food, let me tell ya.

If you reside in LA, that place is called Pitfire Pizza and you should definitely check it out.

Anyway, thanks to Pitfire, I developed a love for Brussels sprouts and this meal below, from Portlandia is similar to Pitfire’s Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza. It’s got bacon, Brussels sprouts, and it’s heavenly.

What you’ll need

  • 1/2 cup of hazelnuts
  • 1 pound of medium-sized Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar

The first step is my favorite step. Pre-heating the oven to 350. If it was 400, it’d be my second favorite step.

Next step is to spread the hazelnuts on a pan and toast them for about 12 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when the shells are cracking a bit. Allow them to cool after the toasting and then rub them with a towel to peel off the shell skin completely. After this step, you will chop them into itty bitty bits.

Next, you will coat your sprouts with oil, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss this mixture until they are evenly glazed.

Meanwhile, place a skillet on your stove top and set that sucker to some high heat. Once the skillet is hotter than a Texas summer, place the sprouts in the skillet with the cut side down. After about 5 minutes, the sprouts should be sufficiently browned and flipped over. Once flipped, cover and cook until they are crisp, yet tender. This should take about 3 minutes.

Remove the sprouts from the pan and replace with bacon. Scale back to a California summer heat setting (medium in case you don’t know) and cook for about 5 minutes.

The shallots are the next item to add to the pan. Cook those puppies while stirring for another 5 minutes.

We are now ready to tag back-in the Brussels sprouts. Toss and combine a couple of times and then add the vinegar. Cook the vinegar until it just about evaporates and then add the nuts and serve right away!

Or…..

You can add an egg, over easy or over medium, however you prefer on top. I did and I highly recommend it.

It’ll probably come to no surprise that I loved this recipe. As I mentioned, bacon and Brussels sprouts pair nicely together. They are both crisp and crunchy but in different ways that compliment each other.

The hazelnuts give it even more texture and add a bit of a salty taste which settles in nicely with the vinegar.

Then there’s the egg. You can’t go wrong with an egg in a skillet dish. At least for me anyway.

Since I’m plugging LA restaurants, I might as well add that this recipe is almost exactly like a breakfast item at The Brite Spot in Echo Park. It’s called the Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash and it is to die for!

The major difference is that this dish has potatoes. It’s basically a high end version of Denny’s breakfast skillets. I’m telling you, it’s a simple dish, but there is something they are doing that I can’t figure out and I need to, sorely.

For now, I am more than content with this recipe from Portlandia. 

How could anyone ever hate you Brussels sprouts?

 

 

Rosh Hashanah Cabbage Soup

This Rosh Hashanah soup comes from The Scent of Orange Blossoms. It’s a hearty and comforting soup traditionally served during Rosh Hashanah, but I think it’s probably okay to eat it other days of the year.

If I’m wrong, by all means speak your peace.

What you need

  • 1 small to medium green cabbage
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish

The first step is to slice your cabbage. To do so, cut it in half, remove the core and slice into thin strips.

Cut all of your other ingredients now and then combine everything on the list, minus the cilantro. It’s garnish, people, not an ingredient.

Bring this concoction to a boil. When foam begins to appear, skim this off.

Have you ever wondered why recipes constantly ask to skim off foam. I mean, what did foam ever do to a soup. A lot, apparently. I looked it up.

The foam causes a greenhouse effect on your soup, which is a no-no to the cooking process because simmering is important in soup cooking. Otherwise you get overcooked soup and then people start debating about whether or not global warming is a real thing.

It’s just bad, so get rid of it.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the foam, minimize the heat to medium so the soup can simmer. Cover and cook for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Basically, we want to cook until the meat is tender.

When the meat is tender, you are ready to serve and garnish with cilantro.

As you might have observed, this soup is effortless and straightforward to make. It’s also delicious. This dish ranks high on my list of meals to make again for those reasons. Sure, I like gourmet food, but if it’s labor intensive, I don’t want to make it all the time. What American who works over 8 hours a day and never gets month off vacations in August has time for that?

I’m jealous. I should move to Europe.

 

IMG_0101

Skimming that foam!

IMG_0103

Mediterranean Beef Stew

Isa’s Babushka Borscht

I enjoy Isa from Isa Does It. She throws in little slices of humor and tips for lazy cooks. Plus, she has a deep connection with her heritage, which I appreciate and relate to.

This particular recipe is a vegan alternative to borscht and I’m guessing it comes from her grandmother since babushka means grandmother or elderly woman in Russian. I do know at the very least that her ancestors are Russian and that she loves imagining them eating and preparing this dish. As I like to do with my own ancestors whenever I make pasta.

What you’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of red beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 chunks
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • several pinches of ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • cashew cream (optional)
  • fresh dill, for garnish

Before I lay down the cooking steps, let me side track into how to make the cashew cream.

It’s simple, but it takes some planning ahead. All you do is take one cup of cashews and soak them in water for two hours. Drain the water and place the nuts in a blender with 1 1/2 cups of water. Blend until it’s smooth and creamy. Isa also notes you can spice it up with salt and lemon juice if you desire.

If you are not vegan, however, a friend of mine who spent some time in Russia likes to make his borscht with sour cream. I have yet to try his borscht recipe, but I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling the cashew cream. If you are a corrupted animal product dairy lover like myself, you also might find it preferable.

The first step, beyond the cream, is to pre-heat the oil in your largest soup pot. Saute the onion with some salt for about 5-7 minutes. The onions should be slightly soft and translucent in color. Add the garlic next, and cook for only 30 seconds.

Now we will add just about all the remaining ingredients. The lemon juice, dill, and cream are the only ingredients left out at this time.

Cover the pot and allow it to boil. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat, leave the lid slightly ajar, and simmer for about 35 minutes or until the beets are tender.

Once the beets have been tendered, add the lemon juice and then serve individually with garnished cream and dill.

My final results turned out ok. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t too happy with the cashew cream. I think I would have preferred a dairy product of some sort. I made her cashew cream for another recipe, however, and thought it was delicious. It’s possible I didn’t blend well enough this time or maybe the cashews were fresher the first time I made it.

Other than that, I found this soup to not only be healthy, but full-filling. Beets aren’t magical fruits, but they are magical vegetables with numerous health benefits.

Which is probably why I want to corrupt this soup with sour cream. Without sour cream, it’s just too good for me and I don’t deserve it unless I knock it down a peg.

IMG_0084

I am Bob’s Stuffed Meat Loaf

This stuffed beefy meat loaf concoction comes from Taste of Home Cooking for 2, but all I can think about when I read the words meat loaf and stuffed is this guy.

film-fight_club-1999-robert_paulson-meat_loaf-tshirt-world_gym_tshirt

Meat Loaf as Bob from Fight Club

Why specifically do I think of Meat Loaf as Bob and not Eddie from Rocky Horror? There’s even that time he played a mobster in A Hole in One with Michelle Williams.  Why does that not come readily to mind?

MCDHOIN EC011

Meat Loaf’s a good fella. 

I don’t know dear readers. I just know that my mind works in mysterious ways.

What you’ll need.

  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup of hot water
  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted.
  • 1 cup of stuffing
  • 2/3 a pound of lean ground beef

The first step in making this stuffed meat loaf is to combine 1/4 of the barbecue sauce with the water and butter in a small bowl. When that mixture has been mixed well, add the stuffing.

Next, shove the mixture aside to form your meat patties. You will make four patties out of the 2/3 a pound of beef. Try to make them as even as possible because you are basically going to make a sandwich with the stuffing mixture as the inside. Do this by dividing the stuffing mixture into half and scooping each half on one patty. Then, place a plain patty on top of the one with stuffing and seal the edges so that the stuffing remains intact.

In case you got confused, there should only be two servings or two stuffed patties. If you’re still confused, don’t fret.  I have pictures.

The next step will be to bake the patties in the oven by placing them on a baking pan, naturally. Before you put them in the oven, do pour the remaining barbecue sauce on top. Once that’s done, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Uncooked patties for demonstrative purposes.

These turned out real well! I love it when a recipe is not only delicious, but easy to make.

The taste is what you’d expect. It’s meatloaf as a burger. I ate mine without a bun or extra toppings, but I could see some trendy burger food truck making this into a thing.

Feel free to save $12 and do it yourself, though. That’s my recommendation anyway.

FullSizeRender (3)

Bob’s Meat Loaf

Sandra Lee’s Semi Pad Thai

This recipe from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals is actually called Spicy Peanut Noodles, but it’s basically a variation on Pad Thai.

As usual, Sandra’s recipes are a breeze to make. I failed miserably at trying to make a custard pudding recently and writing about this recipe renews my self-confidence in the world of cooking.

My custard still tasted ok, but it would have been delicious if the consistency was right.

Sandra, thankfully, gives you little room to fail. She gently holds your hand through every recipe in this book. I haven’t failed a recipe of hers yet.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed though. You never know.

What you’ll need

  • 8 ounces of soba noodles
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Thai seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of peanuts, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced diagonally

The first step is to boil the soba noodles. This isn’t hard. Just boil some water and cook the noodles for 4-5 minutes. Drain the water when it’s ready, cool the noodles, and set aside.

The next step is to prepare your peanut butter sauce by whisking the peanut butter with the chicken broth, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, Thai seasoning, and the red pepper flakes.

When everything is whisked together, just pour on top of the noodles, sprinkle some peanuts and scallions and you’re good to go!

This was so much easier to make than my custard pudding dish, let me tell you! I feel slightly redeemed. Don’t feel sorry for me though. I’m not down for the count. I’m gonna get right back up and knock that pudding senseless.

When I do, you’ll all hear about it.

For now though, look at this deliciousness.

IMG_0053

Peanut Butter and Noodles

 

Fish Cakes or the Optimist’s Crab Cake

Fish cakes, they’re like crab cakes only with fish.

They kind of look like meat patties.

This recipe is from The Everything Thai Cookbook. 

I like to imagine there’s some sort of optimist club or new age group out there that feels crab cakes invoke too many negative emotions with their crabbiness so they have to substitute with fish. That’s just my quirky imagination, though.

What else do you want me to say? I’m just going to list the ingredients now, ok?

What you’ll need.

  • 1/4 cup of chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup of chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped lemongrass, inner portion only
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lime peel
  • 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste
  • 5-10 dried chilies, seeded, soaked, and shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 pound of boneless whitefish steak, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 pound of French beans, trimmed and finely chopped.
  • Vegetable oil

The first step, is to get your handy dandy food processor out and grind up the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, peppercorns, lime peel, shrimp paste, chilies, and salt. Blend til you get a smooth operating paste.

Once properly smoothed, add your fish to the food processor and mix until it matches the paste consistency. Finally add the egg to this food processor mixture.

When all of these elements have been combined, switch over to a mixing bowl and stir in the green beans for more mixing.

We are now ready to make our patties. Do so, by spooning a tablespoon’s worth of the mixture and forming that into a round cake. Repeat this process until all of the mixture is used up.

The final step is to fry the patties and to do so, we need to heat 1/8 to a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil over medium heat. Once you reach a temperature of 350, fry the fish cakes until golden.

Pat the grease out with a paper towel once fried and then you are ready to eat!

IMG_0001

Positive thinking pescetarian cake

It looks like chicken doesn’t it? It kind of tastes like chicken too. I would say that’s odd but everything tastes like chicken, except beef and pork. That’s the real oddity there. Why does that meat taste so different? Are they more bold?

These thoughts actually kind of bother me, because I love animals, but I also like eating some of them. Now I feel like a jerk!