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?

 

 

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

 

Hamburger of the Chilies

My next recipe comes from I Love Spice, which if you don’t know, I do love spice. I want to marry spice, but I also love cheese and it’s been a real struggle figuring out who I want to settle down with.

Spice can be intense sometimes, but I like the intensity and cheese is nice and comforting, but sometimes I get bored with cheese because all we do is lay around and talk about how much we like pizza.

For this recipe I did manage to get spice and cheese together. So maybe we can all work things out and move to Utah or start a commune somewhere. I have faith in our relationships.

What you’ll need

  • 1 lb 7 oz/650 grams of ground beef
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 small fresh red chilies, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, plus extra sprigs for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • hamburger buns, of course, unless you’re gluten-free, then maybe not.

The first step is to make your burger patties by combining all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, and the hamburger buns. That would be awkward.

Mix those ingredients so that they are dispersed in the meat evenly and then season with salt and pepper.

The next step is to form burger patties and you do this by invoking your child hood self’s love of play-dough. Don’t get too carried away though.

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You can’t compete with Meatwad anyway

Instead of Abraham Lincoln, you should be making four roundish patties, like so.

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Once you’ve formed your patties, pre-heat a broiler or grill and then cook those puppies for 5-8 minutes on each side or until they have reached the level of doneness you prefer.

Once they are cooked to your liking, you can garnish with basil sprigs and serve on your hamburger bun with all the fixings you like.

You can also add cheese, which I did. I added pepperjack, because obviously it’s my two loves together and why wouldn’t I?

My final result turned out well. I feel like it’s hard to mess up a burger patty. As long as you don’t over or undercook it, it should turn out well.

I loved the kick of the spices and it was juicy and delicious. So, if you love spice or want to try something new for your Labor Day Cookout, go ahead and give this guy a try. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Warm Oysters or How My Theory that I Prefer Hot Food was Validated

Warm Oysters with Balsamic Vinegar or as the French say, Les Huitres Tiedes au Vinaigre Balsamique is my final oyster recipe in French Farmhouse Cookbook.

Susan, the author, took a tour on the Breton shore and wined and dined with many an oyster farmer. One in particular suggested Susan try this method which has warmed me up to oysters and I think will be enjoyed by others as well.

There’s something about warm butter and seafood that is extremely comforting for me. The addition of balsamic adds to the warmth in taste without overshadowing the oysters.

I’m actually excited about eating oysters more and look forward to trying out different methods. I admittedly probably won’t make my own anymore. Making your own tends to require some forethought and a special shucking knife that I do not own.

This is a recipe that relies on your own good judgement as far as portions go. I have a feeling some of you might panic when you read that, but rest assured that even I didn’t screw it up.

The cookbook does have the following measurements for those who can’t handle that. I only got 6 oysters and eyed the rest myself.

  • 2 dozen small to medium oysters, scrubbed in the shell
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup best-quality balsamic vinegar

The first step is to pre-heat your oven. Yes you read that right. These oyster pups are gonna get baked.

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Don’t get excited, it’s not the kind of baked

Susan suggests that the best way to get the oysters baked is to arranged them on a baking sheet with the cup side down. Spreading salt on the sheet will help stabilize them if you have trouble keeping them balanced.

Once you place the oysters in the oven, you will bake for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the oven and then pry them open as carefully as possible. Once you’ve pried them open, you can remove the outer shell.

The proper consumption method is as follows, drizzle a touch of butter. (When I say touch, I truly mean a miniscule amount. It won’t take much.) The final step is to add 2 to 3 drops of vinegar. You are now prepared for slurping! Enjoy!

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The butter can’t compete with the oyster’s sexiness

 

 

 

Cheesy Beefees of Potency

Balls. Potency. The symbol of manhood. The patriarch’s second favorite shape, the other one being an eggplant emojii.

Was it a man who first thought to take a chunk of meat and form it into a ball for consumption? Was it a woman? A woman who wanted to show how she could take a man’s power from him. His pride and joy? Maybe it was just a psychopath who wanted to eat balls for real and was suppressing his or her desires by pretending with animal meat.

We will never know who decided to form meat into balls just like we will never know who invented the wheel. Another spherical shape of power.

Hahaha…..Rachel likes balls!!! – My friend’s kid Lana

I’m talking about meatballs Lana! You’re only six! What’s wrong with you?!

Serious talk everyone. This next recipe comes from Portlandia and is meatballs with cheese stuffed inside. Lana really did say that once, while I was at an Italian restaurant with her mom. She overheard me telling her mother about how some “men” I used to work with would tease me whenever I ordered meatballs for my lunch. They would say “Oh you want balls today? Do you like balls Rachel? Would you say that you love them”

It was dumb. Lana thought we were talking about actual meatballs and she was eating meatballs when she said that. It took everything in me to not say, “So do you kid. You got your mouth all up in them right now.”

I don’t remember what I ended up saying. I just remember my friend giving me this wide-eyed surprised look of slight embarrassment and then laughing.

If you love balls, especially meatballs, this is what you’ll need.

  • 2 slices of white bread, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons of half and half or milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound of ground sirloin
  • 3/4 pound of ground chuck
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 ounces of pepper jack cheese, cut into 24 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup pus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

My favorite first step!! Pre-heat the oven!! Pre-heat it to 425 degrees and position rack on the upper shelf!

The next step is to combine the bread, half and half, and egg in a large bowl. Mix this into a paste texture then add the scallions, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt. Stir until well mixed.

Next add the meat and massage with your hands until it has melded with the rest of the ingredients. Once the meat has become one with everything, form that meat into balls. 24 to be exact.

When your balls are ready, prepare them for cooking by coating a pan with vegetable oil. Moisten your hands with a touch of oil and then gently tuck a cube of cheese inside each ball.

Now put your balls into the oven and cook until they are nice and firm. This should take around 12 minutes.

Once the 12 minutes are up, remove the balls from the oven and set the oven to broil.

Get another large bowl out and place a 1/4 of a cup of the grated cheese inside. Then put the balls in there and lightly toss them. Return the balls to the baking sheet, sprinkle the remaining grated cheese and then broil for 2-3 minutes. Be careful though, you don’t want to emasculate them. Balls need gentle handling and cooking.

Once the 2-3 minutes are up, after some cooling they will be ready for consumption.

You can serve them as an appetizer, with toothpicks on their own or dip them in tomato sauce. The best part about these balls is the cheese I have to say. They are your standard balls otherwise, but the cheese puts them ahead.

I can safely say that I do like these balls. I hope you do too. Just don’t tell Lana, she’s kind of a gossip.

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The Scent of Harira

Déjà vu, synchronicity, or coincidence? I’m not sure what word would best describe this situation. All I can tell you is that I did not plan nor did I realize that my next recipe was going to be another Harira soup.

This version doesn’t have lamb meat, but it does come from The Scent of Orange Blossoms which is a traditional cookbook of Jewish-Moroccan recipes. So, we can gather that this version is more traditional than Isa’s.

The authors of this cookbook say that this dish “typifies the cross-cultural exchanges between Morocco’s Arab and Jewish communities.”

Both cultures have a tradition where they break each day’s fast with this soup. Muslims in the month of Ramadan and Jews at the end of Yom Kippur.

The lesson I get from this is that food is the answer for peace! I declare open borders for food!

Getting back to tradition. Isa, in the last entry seemed surprised one would use angel hair pasta in this soup, but the two ladies who wrote this cookbook mention that angel hair is one of many variations. Should I let Isa know?

You can also use leavened bread as well as various types of grains.

What you’ll need

  • 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 cup of brown lentils, cleaned and picked over
  • 7 1/2 cups of beef stock
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 20 sprigs of cilantro
  • 15 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of raw long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • Wedges of lemon

The first step is to heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. By the way, when in doubt, use medium heat. Moderation is a friend of the doubtful.

Add the onions to the pot and stir in a moderate intervals of time for 4 to 5 minutes. Then add the celery, lentils, and 6 1/2 cups of stock. Cover your pot and bring this to the max boil, aka rolling boil. Cook this under the max boil for 10-15 minutes and then decrease to moderate medium.

While this is happening, you can prepare your tomatoes via the scoring method. Scoring involves marking your tomatoes with the x of death on the stem and then boiling in max heat boil for 30 seconds. Drain and cool the tomatoes after that and by then you can skin them alive and chop them to bits.

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Cooking is brutal

When you have brutally murdered and dismembered your tomatoes, you will add them into a blender with 1/2 cup of stock, cilantro, parsley, turmeric, and ginger. Your goal is to have a fairly smooth consistency. When you’ve reached that goal, add it to your pot along with rice and garbanzo beans. Cook this for 30-35 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

5 minutes before your soup is ready, bring it to a simmer. While it is simmering, in a bowl, mix flour with the remaining stock to create a paste. Add this to the soup and stir until it thickens.

You are now ready to serve your soup with a fresh slice of lemon!

I liked this version of Harira better than Isa’s. It wasn’t as hearty, but I preferred that. The lemon slices are a nice touch that I enjoyed as well. It gave the soup a refreshing citrus taste that wasn’t present in Isa’s version.

I can see why both are popular to end a fasting period too. They are hearty, comforting, and relatively healthy at the same time.

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