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!

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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.

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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?

 

 

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Peanut Butter and Noodles

 

Eggplant Parm with Catch Me If You Can Cheese

My next recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery and you could say it is a variation of eggplant Parmesan with a substitute of a cheese called caciocavallo which is a native cheese of Southern Italy.

The quest to find caciocavallo was the hardest part of making this dish and finding it caused a bit of a hiatus for my cooking goals. My first attempt to buy this cheese was at a specialty cheese shop where they just happened to run out the previous day. They ordered it again, but by the time I got there it was sold out. I had no idea this cheese was so popular. I decided to go to Whole Foods after that and ended up empty handed, thankfully Bristol Farms had some. I must have been lucky that day, because I looked for it again out of curiosity after making this recipe and it was M.I.A. in the cheese section.

Hopefully you’ll have better luck with that than I did.

What you’ll need

  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 oz or 1/4 pound of caciocavallo cheese
  • 2 oz or 1/2 cup of grated cheese
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves

The first step is to prepare the eggplants by cutting them lengthwise into sections as evenly as possible. Then you will cut slits into the fleshy part of the eggplant and soak in salted water for ten minutes.

I wanted to look up the physics as to why salting and soaking is necessary for eggplants and ended up finding this useful article from the LA Times. According to Russ Parsons, it only makes a difference to salt if you are frying. He also feels for there to be a true impact, the soaking should take place for at least 60 minutes.

I have to say, I think Russ is on to something, because when I’ve salted eggplant for only ten minutes, it didn’t do much at all.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve soaked the eggplant, you will pat dry and then allow it to cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare the tomato sauce that will eventually go on top of our eggplant concotion.

To make the sauce, the first step is to prepare the tomatoes by skinning and chopping them. If you don’t recall the proper way to do this, what you need to do is cut x’s into the top of the tomato and then boil them for about a minute. Throw those boiled tomatoes on some ice and then the skin should peel off.  After that, you cut and set aside.

The next step for the sauce is to fry two whole cloves of garlic in oil. Remove the cloves once they’ve been sufficiently fried. I love garlic and didn’t want to remove them, but leaving fried garlic in sauce can make the sauce bitter. If you want to keep the garlic anyway, I suggest mincing the garlic and lightly frying. My mother always told me the longer you let a garlic fry, the more sugar you have to add later to sweeten the bitterness.

Food is like people sometimes.

Once the garlic is ready, whether you keep or discard, the next step is to add those chopped tomatoes. Do so and cook for 5-10 minutes while stirring and sprinkling basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

As the sauce cooks, cut the garlic and caciocavallo into pieces that will fit in the slits you made for the eggplant pieces.

Once the slits are stuffed, sprinkle with some basil and then top them off with tomato sauce. As long as the sauce is cooked, of course.

The final touch will be to sprinkle with grated cheese and oil and bake for 30 minutes on the 350 setting of an oven.

Once your time is up, you’ll have a tasty alternative version to eggplant Parmesan.

My final result turned out well enough. I prefer Parmesan when it comes to eggplant. Caciocavallo is a bitter and harder cheese than Parmesan. I feel it doesn’t compliment the eggplant in a way that I like. I prefer the delicious gooey texture of melted Parmesan that pulls apart like string cheese.

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Mmmm, string cheese

Have I mentioned that I love cheese lately? It’s important to tell the people things you love that you love them everyday. The little things count in this troubled world and the comfort of cheese is getting me through these troubling times every day.

Back to this dish, though. It was an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t beat Parmesan for me and it’s not worth the effort and hunt to use caciocavallo, in my opinion. If you’re adventurous, definitely try it out. Life is too short to not try new things.

 

Hannibal Lector’s Favorite Salad

Today we will discuss Classic Pasta at Home’s Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad. A favorite for Dr. Lector, he pairs it with his favorite Chianti and liverwurst that he gets at some special butcher shop. I can’t remember which one….I think it’s called Buffalo Bill’s Exotic Meats or something.

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Dr. Lector and his Chianti

Unfortunately, I ran into Dr. Lector while shopping for fava beans. His love of fava beans has no bounds. He bought them all up at the grocery store and was unwilling to share any with me. He said something about having a special dinner party and that he would invite me, but he had already “outdone” himself as it was. I don’t know what that meant, but Dr. Lector has always been a little off.

So I had to substitute with lima beans. Thankfully no other substitutes were needed.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 lbs of fava beans
  • 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced green onion, stem included
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 8 – 12 soft lettuce leaves, preferably red. (Dr. Lector prefers the shade of Chianti)
  • 2 oz pecorinio cheese such as Toscanello or Manchego.

The first step in making this salad is to shell the fava or lima beans. To do this, you must either soak overnight or boil them for what seems like an eternity. Don’t be impatient with this step because it can make or break this salad. In other words, you don’t want the beans to be hard.

If you use the boil method, have a bowl of ice water ready. This creates a fast hot to cold effect that will rip off the skin of the bean. Buffalo Bill told me about this wonderful method by the way.

Drain the water once you let it cool down and then mix the beans in a large bowl with the olive oil and the green onions. Once these are mixed, you can add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice to your liking.

We are now ready to add the lettuce. Do so by tearing the lettuce into bite sized pieces and tossing gently along with rest of the salad.

The final step is to garnish with some cheese! My favorite part!

The cookbook recommends using a vegetable peeler and shaving the cheese into paper-thin slices. I grated mine, but I do think the shaved method would produce a greater taste of cheese. Being a cheese lover, I wished I had done this instead.

Can’t live in the past, though, right?

Anyway, you will want to toss the cheese as well. Once you have done so, it will be ready for consumption. Pair it with whatever you wish, unless it’s Hannibal Lector that is. I wouldn’t recommend that.

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Hummus, A Healthy Snack Made Even Healthier; The Final Chapter Resident Olive

The epic saga of hummus in the tales of Light and Healthy has now reached it’s final chapter. Will the forces of Olive defeat the evil empire of Garbanzo?  Stay tuned to find out.

Starring,

  • 1 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of minced fresh parsley or cilantro
  • A jar of pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

Previously on Hummus, A Healthy Snack Made Even Healthier we discovered Princess Hummus was trapped in the evil Kingdom of Garbanzo. How did she get there? Click the link to find out.

Meanwhile, our hero, Resident Olive along with two tablespoons of his coarsely chopped olive friends have made there way to Isle of Food Processor where they joined rebel garbanzo beans in an attempt to combine forces to save Princess Hummus from their evil emperor. Once combined, they traveled to Princess Hummus’s prison bowl. Upon arrival, Resident Olive realized they would need more allies and called on two more tablespoons of coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives. When the allies arrived, the evil emperor fired bolts of fresh parsley on them in attempt to overtake the rescue.

Princess Hummus counterattacked this spell by casting a delicious hummus summon spell which caused a human to save everyone and return the people of Hummus to their rightful home, The Kingdom of Rachel’s Stomach.

All rejoiced and lived a happy, wonderful life.

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Resident Olive and his army of olives and garbanzo beans