Weekly Winner: Glorious Green Goodness with just a tad of decadence.

carbonaraThere is nothing more comforting than a creamy, luxurious bowl of pasta– especially since winter is still going strong here in Chicago.  While I may be dreaming of  glorious spring vegetables that will eventually take over the markets, right now I need more sustenance and comfort than a light, springy pasta.  Enter: Pea and Spinach Carbonara.

The recipe comes from Eating Well magazine and is super easy and gives you a hint of springtime flavor.  It is also really quick to make,  which leaves you plenty of time to put on an extra layer, find the throw blanket and curl up on the couch!

Pea & Spinach Carbonara

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 small clove garlic, minced

8 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

3 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 9-oz package fresh tagliatelle or linguine

8 cups baby spinach

1 cup peas

Procedure:

  1. Put 10 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add breadcrumbs and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley.  Set aside
  3. Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons Parmesan, egg yolks, egg, pepper and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.  Add spinach and peas and cook until the pasta is tender, about 1 minute more. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Drain and place in a large bowl.
  5. Slowly whisk the reserved cooking water into the egg mixture. Gradually add the mixture to the pasta, tossing with tongs to combine.  Serve topped with the reserved breadcrumb mixture
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Weekly Winner: Just in time for Chinese New Year – minus the pig :-(

Teriyaki meatballsI’d like to think I had this all planned out.  That I knew that yesterday was the Chinese New Year and that, traditionally, one ate noodles, mushrooms, and greens for luck, health and prosperity.  I mean, in theory I knew all this… I just didn’t realize that yesterday was actually the Chinese New Year AND that it was the year of the pig!  I do love me some pig!  As luck would have it, I had planned this dish for dinner anyway.  Had I really thought it all out, the meatballs would have obviously been made from pork.

This recipe from Cook’s Country for Teriyaki Meatballs caught my eye.  When I realized they were chicken meatballs, I almost didn’t read any further.  To me, chicken meatballs are usually a sad excuse for a ball of meat.  Bland, dry, not worth the effort of rolling out.  But right away they explained that these were different.  They figured out a way to pack flavor, structure and moisture into these little gems.  Yes, they did!  The homemade teriyaki sauce was also a revelation — not gloppy and sickeningly sweet like a lot of bottled versions.  Just thick enough to glaze the tender, tasty meatballs.

I decided to serve them on Udon noodles which I get frozen from my favorite Asian market, but obviously these would be awesome on rice, on other noodles, or simply served with toothpicks as appetizers.

Teriyaki Meatballs

Makes 40 bite-sized meatballs

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped coarse

1-1/2  cups chopped green cabbage

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Salt & pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

4 scallions, minced

3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro (I used parsley)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

For the sauce:

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 cup mirin

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on the bias

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Procedure:

  1. For the meatballs:  Adjust oven rack to the upper-meddle position and heat oven to 400F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray.  Combine mushrooms and cabbage in food processor and pulse until chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, about 8-10 pulses.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add mushroom mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  3. For the sauce:  Wipe now-empty skillet clean with paper towels. Whisk cornstarch and vinegar in small bowl until combined; set aside. Bring mirin, water, soy sauce, and sugar to boil over high heat. Whisk in cornstarch slurry, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; transfer 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce to mushroom mixture.  Let mushroom mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes. Cover skillet and set remaining sauce aside.
  4. Add chicken, panko, scallions, cilantro, parsley, egg, sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to cooled mushroom mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Divide chicken mixture into 40 portions, about 1 tablespoon each.  Roll between your wet hands to form 1-1/4 inch balls and space evenly on prepared sheet in 8 rows of 5.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Uncover sheet and bake until meatballs are firm and bottoms are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking.  Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat.  Add meatballs to skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds and serve.