Weekly Winner: Making Magic

bucatiniHere’s what I love about cooking:  Sometimes, magic happens.  You see a recipe, you know from the ingredients that it is going to be tasty…. but seriously it has no right to be as good as it is.  With hardly any work, some careful measuring and good ingredients, “et voila” — serious magic!

That’s what happened last night.  In my very own kitchen, I created magic.  Actually, I made Bucatini with Sausage and Peas, but what happened when all the ingredients came together in the pot can only be described as magic.  Soul-satisfying, peace-inducing, “all is right with the world” sorcery.  This is definitely a prime example of when the final dish is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine and obviously I think it’s pretty awesome.  But make this for yourself and see if you agree.

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Serves 6


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

2 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup frozen baby peas


1 pound bucatini or perciatelli

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons shredded basil


In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the saucepan and cook the tomato sauce over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and peas and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes longer. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Add the tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss over low heat for 2 minutes, until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the remaining 1/4 cup of grated cheese and the shredded basil and serve.



Weekly Winner: Perfectly Picante Peanutty Pork Chops

peanut porkYou know how I love alliteration!  I also love a good peanut sauce as well as pork chops from my favorite butcher shop, Paulina Meat Market.  Therefore, this recipe is a total trifecta of tastiness!  Oops, I did it again.  Sorry.

Anyway, this recipe comes from Redbook Magazine (no really, I do get every magazine known to man!) and it is actually a recipe just for the Hoisin-peanut sauce but the article was on grilling and they showed the sauce with grilled pork chops.  Who was I to argue?  A nice benefit of this sauce is that it is applied after the meat is grilled, so you don’t have to worry about any of it burning on the grill.  The other good thing about serving this on grilled pork chops (if you’re me, that is) is that your husband perfectly grills the chops so all you have to do is make the sauce!

This sauce is spectacular but beware … it is hot.  But its a good hot.  I actually used half of the Sriracha the recipe called for and it was about as spicy as I would want it.  But you do what you want … I am not the boss of you or your taste buds.  Just know that I personally think it was perfect the way I made it … perfectly picante, that is!

Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/3 cup roughly chopped roasted peanuts

1 Tbsp minced ginger

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1-2 Tbsp Sriracha (this is the amount called for — I halved it)

Mix everything together and brush on the pork chops a minute after taking them off the grill.  This makes 1-1/2 cups, enough for 4 bone-in rib or center-cut pork chops.

Weekly Winner: A Delicously Drippy Dinner Duo

As a rule, I don’t like messy.  I’ve always been a tidy person.  Even as a child you would never find me outside making mud pies or playing in the dirt.  It was definitely more in my nature to run inside panicked if there was the slightest bit of dirt on my hands.

thai chickenHowever as an adult I’ve discovered that sometimes, in order to eat really well, you have to get messy.  Last night’s dinner was no exception.  Sticky, drippy chicken that just begged to be picked up with your hands.  All fabulous.  Even the side dish was a bit “unkempt” and saucy.  It went so amazingly well with the chicken that I’ve included both recipes — yes, for a limited time only, you lucky readers get TWO recipes for the price of one!!

The chicken recipe comes from Eating Well Magazine.  In the spirit of full disclosure, their original recipe called for removing the skin from the chicken.  Really?? Thighs and drumsticks on the grill?  Stripped of their luscious, crispy skin?  I think not!  Also, I realize that the dipping sauce did not make it in the picture.  Do not leave this out … it is zingy and sticky and wonderful (and adds to the messiness factor!)  The green bean recipe comes from Fine Cooking.  I’ve made these beans a bunch of times but last night they seemed exceptionally good.  I think it was the combination with the chicken.  In any event, when you start off with “Fine Cooking” it will inevitably lead to “Eating Well” … if not also a bit messy.  But as I’m slowly learning, sometimes messy is good.  And tasty!

Thai Grilled Chicken with Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce

Serves 6



  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup “lite” coconut milk
  • 4 pounds bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs (about 12 pieces), trimmed

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. To prepare chicken: Combine garlic cloves, pepper, cilantro stems and pinch of salt in a large mortar or food processor or food mill and mash or pulse to a coarse paste. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in fish sauce and coconut milk. Add chicken and stir to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  2. Preheat grill to medium.
  3. To prepare sauce: Heat vinegar to a boil in a small nonreactive pan. Add sugar, stir to dissolve it, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; simmer for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in salt. Pour into a serving bowl and let cool to room temperature before serving.
  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade. (Discard marinade.) Oil the grill rack Grill, turning occasionally, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part without touching bone registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Serve the chicken with the dipping sauce.

Chinese Restaurant-Style Sautéed Green Beans

Serves 2


1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

12 oz green beans, trimmed

Kosher salt

1 Tbsp minced garlic


Combine the soy sauce, honey, and 1 Tbs. water in a small dish and set near the stove. Set a shallow serving dish near the stove, too.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the green beans and 1/2 tsp. salt and toss with tongs to coat well. Cook, turning the beans occasionally, until most are well browned, shrunken, and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. (The butter in the pan will have turned dark brown.)

Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the garlic is softened and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add the soy mixture (you’ll need to scrape the honey into the pan). Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glazey consistency that coats the beans, 30 to 45 seconds.

Immediately transfer the beans to the serving dish, scraping the pan with the spatula to get all of the garlicky sauce. Let sit for a few minutes and then serve warm.


Weekly Winner: A Self-Contained Summer Supper

tomatoesI am generally not a fan of stuffed vegetables.  I find that the vegetable that is being stuffed is usually either terribly overcooked and soggy, or not cooked at all.  If its overcooked, the whole thing tends to fall apart, and if it isn’t cooked enough it is messy and impossible to eat.  Then I came across this recipe for stuffed tomatoes and suddenly all is right with my world.

For one thing it is the height of summer and the tomatoes are fabulous.  This recipe definitely calls for big, meaty beefsteak tomatoes.  Then there’s the fact that you use the entire tomato.  After hollowing it out, you use the tomato “innards” for the sauce.  I like that.  Then there’s the fact that basically everything is mixed and chopped up in the food processor — easy!  And finally, my favorite thing about this recipe is that the combination of all ingredients makes the final product taste like a pizza topping.  Bonus!  Oh yeah, and it’s pretty!!  And who doesn’t like a pretty dinner?  That’s a win-win-win-win!

OK, enough raving — here’s the recipe which comes from Food Network Magazine.  Trust me, if you’ve been disappointed with other stuffed veggie dishes, this is your recipe.  Or even if you haven’t been disappointed with other recipes, you might be after trying this one!  Either way, you’re guaranteed one tasty, pretty, summer supper!

Sausage-and-Basil-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 8


  • 8 medium tomatoes, preferably with stems intact
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced, plus a handful of celery leaves
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups bread cubes (from about 1/2 baguette)
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a serrated knife, slice off the top quarter of each tomato and reserve the tops. Scoop out the pulp from inside each tomato and transfer it to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the cayenne to the food processor and process until smooth; pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, herbes de Provence, bell pepper, onion, diced celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the sausage browns, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage mixture and bread cubes to the food processor and pulse until chopped. Pack the tomatoes with the sausage-bread mixture so the stuffing is domed on top. Put the stuffed tomatoes in the baking dish on top of the sauce.

Place the basil, walnuts, cheese and celery leaves in the food processor and chop. Sprinkle onto the tomatoes. Put the tomato tops, cut-side down, between the stuffed tomatoes. Bake until the stuffing is golden, about 20 minutes. Cover each tomato with a top and serve with the sauce.