Weekly Winner:  Punchy, Pungent Pasta

Dang, OK… its been a while.  Apparently life kind of got in the way of posting here but as of last night, I’m back and with a whopper of a dinner recipe.

A word of warning about this week’s entry:  Curry Noodles with Broccoli Rabe and Purple Cabbage is not for everyone.  This is one funky pasta dish!

If you are not a fan of bitter… you will not be a fan of this.  However, if you like spicy red curry paste, bitter broccoli rabe and tons of texture in your bowl of noodles, then run, don’t walk to make this dish.

The recipe comes from a new source for me, the PureWow website.  This is truly an adventure in a bowl.  The soft pasta is coated with spicy red curry paste that gets a hit of salt from soy sauce and some serious funk from fish sauce.  All that is mellowed a bit by the addition of coconut milk.  Then, you get some great bitter crunch from the broccoli rabe and the cabbage and a sweet bite of the shredded carrot.  OK, now that I’ve given you basically the entire ingredient list, you might as well go shopping, get the stuff and make this dish.  If you do, let me know what you think!  It got two enthusiastic thumbs up from this household.

Curry Noodles with Broccoli Rabe  and Purple Cabbage

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Noodles:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 bunches of scallions, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp red curry paste

1 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup lime juice

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp honey

12 oz spaghetti

Stir-fried veggies:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 cups chopped broccoli rabe

2 cubs shredded purple cabbage

1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

Salt and pepper

Optional toppings:

1/2 bunch scallions, chopped

Sesame seeds, to taste

Procedure:

  1. FOR THE NOODLES:  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the scallions, ginger and garlic.  Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the curry paste and cool until it darkens slightly, about 1 minute.  Stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and honey.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Continue to simmer while you cook the pasta.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook, according th the package directions.  Drain well and reserve.
  4. FOR THE STIR-FRY: In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the broccoli rabe and cabbage; sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes more.  Stir in the shredded carrot and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the spaghetti and vegetables to the sauce and toss well to combine.  Divide the noodles among four bowls and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.  Serve immediately.

Weekly Winner: Chinese BBQ + Old Lady Fruit = One Delicious Pot Roast

This dish is nothing short of amazing.  Four ingredients and one slow cooker.  That is all you need for one seriously delectable piece of meat (I don’t count water or oil as ingredients).  There is some magic chemistry that happens with two of the four ingredients – hoisin sauce and prunes. Yes, I said it.  Old lady fruit.  Get over it… they’re delicious. They break down and become a bit jammy in the spicy hoisin sauce creating pure fabulousness. Combine that with a good slab of meat (I always use a blade roast for pot roast) and you’re guaranteed a good time.

There is nothing I love more than coming home after being out all day, knowing that dinner is just bubbling away, working its tasty magic all on its own. All I had to do is whip up some mashed potatoes and throw some veggies on a sheet pan to roast.  Personally I think the mashed potatoes are non-negotiable.  You need them to cuddling up with the additional sauce, but feel free to serve your favorite “sauce holding” side dish.

Sadly, I cannot give credit where credit is due because I cannot find where this little gem of a recipe came from.  But it’s here now, so you have no excuse not to make it.

Slow-Cooked Hoisin Pot Roast

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, cut into 1-in pieces.

1 4-lb beef blade roast (or chuck roast)

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 cup water

1 cup hoisin sauce

6 pitted prunes, halved

Procedure:

Place onion in a 5-quart slow cooker.  Cut roast in half.

In a heavy skilled, heat oil over medium high heat; and brown the roast on all sides.  Transfer meat to slow cooker.

Combine water and hoisin sauce; pour over meat.  Cook, covered, on low until meat is tender, 8-10 hours.

Weekly Winner:  This Little Piggy Went to Korea – and the possibilities became endless

Every once in a while a recipe really surprises me.  I’ll pull it because I think it sounds tasty (obviously, otherwise why bother?) and interesting in some way but when it all comes together at the dinner table, I’m pleasantly surprised.  That’s exactly what happened with Korean-Style Pork and Rice.

I’m a big fan of gochujang, and my love for pork knows no bounds, but somehow while I was reading through this gem of a dinner, I totally underestimated the results.  I thought it would taste good.  I knew it would be quick, easy and make a nice mid-week meal, but Wow!!  This blew me away!  It was spicy, tangy, savory, fresh and comforting all nestled in a big bowl of happiness.

Almost immediately, my husband and I started thinking of all the spins we could put on this pork preparation.  While it’s perfectly scrumptious as is… what about Korean Pork Sloppy Joes?  Korean Queso Fundido (swapping the chorizo for this)?  Korean Pork Tacos or Burritos?  The possibilities are truly endless.  But rest assured, you’ll read about it all here when it happens.

The original version comes from Cooking Light Magazine.  The only change I made (besides, obviously omitting the cilantro) was to use some leftover brown rice that I had made the day before for something else. Go ahead and use the precooked brown rice it calls for … I won’t judge.  I’ve definitely been known to reach for that in a pinch.

Korean-Style Pork and Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

12 oz. lean ground pork

3/4 cup finely chopped white onion

3/4 cup finely chopped green onions, divided

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup water

2 Tbsp gochujang sauce

2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 (8.8 oz) pkg. precooked brown rice

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

4 lime wedges

Procedure:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add pork; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.  Add white onion, 1/4 cup green onions, and garlic; cook 4 minutes.  Add 1/3 cup water; cook 1 minute,scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
  2. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/2 cup green onions, gochujang, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
  3. Heat rice according to directions
  4. Place 1/2 cup pork mixture and 3/4 cup rice in each of 4 bowls; top with vinegar, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Weekly Winner:  In a Pickle with a Perfect One-Pan Plan for Dinner

Chicken and Potatoes.  It doesn’t conjure up thoughts of an exotic feast. Yet last night those two humble ingredients (along with one not-so ordinary addition) came together to make a truly memorable Sunday Supper.  The secret ingredient is Lime Pickle.  I have never used this Indian condiment before but will definitely be looking for more recipes that calls for it.  It’s spicy, garlicky and tangy and penetrated through the entire chicken thigh making it really juicy and somewhat addictive.

The funny thing about last night’s dinner was that my husband caught a brief glimpse of the recipe on the kitchen counter long before I began making it and was a bit worried.  He thought I was pickling a chicken for dinner!  Maybe next week.

Lime Pickle-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Watercress comes from Bon Appetit magazine and is my favorite type of meal to make — put everything on either a sheetpan or, in this case, a roasting pan and forget about it.  Expect for whizzing the marinade up in a food processor prior to cooking, you’ll have nothing to do but sit around and smell the glorious aroma of this dinner roasting away in the oven. If you line the roasting pan in foil as I did — cleanup will take approximately 2-1/2 minutes!  Somehow I think my chicken pickling experiment will make much more of a mess.

Lime Pickle-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Watercress

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons prepared lime pickle

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced, divided

½ cup mayonnaise

Freshly ground black pepper

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1½ pounds total)

Kosher salt

1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 bunch watercress, tough stems trimmed (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Procedure:

Pulse garlic, ginger, lime pickle, paprika, cayenne, and one-quarter of onions in a food processor until smooth. Add mayonnaise, season with black pepper, and pulse to combine. Scrape marinade into a large resealable plastic bag.

Pat chicken dry; season lightly with salt (the lime pickle is already pretty salty, so use a light hand). Add to bag with marinade, seal bag, and toss chicken to coat. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour or chill up to 12 hours. (The longer the chicken marinates, the more the lime flavor will come through.) Wrap up remaining onion; chill until ready to use.

If chilling chicken, let sit at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes and remaining sliced onions with oil in a large roasting pan. Add ¼ cup water; season with salt and toss again. Place chicken, skin side up, on top (make sure the pieces have some space between them). Roast until chicken thighs are lightly charred in spots and cooked through, 45–55 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes.

Toss watercress with lemon juice in a small bowl; season with salt.

Serve roasted chicken and potatoes and onions with watercress.

Weekly Winner:  Super Cozy, Super Tasty, Super Healthy -But What Is It?

I crave structure.  I adore lists and make them with wild abandon.  I organize, strategize and categorize literally everything in my life (yeah, I know…I’m working on it!) But I truly do love everything to have a place and to have a place for everything.

So then this recipe happens. Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce.  It’s fabulous. It’s easy. It’s healthy. I’m just not exactly sure what it is! Is it a soup? Is it a stew? Perhaps a side dish?  No, far to hearty and complete for a side dish.  Whatever its supposed to be, it was my lunch recently and I seriously enjoyed the heck out of it. I think the only thing I would possibly add to this is a piece of crusty bread along side it. Although honestly, I didn’t miss it.  This is a bowl you want to curl up in. It is incredibly satisfying and complex-tasting and I would make it again in a heartbeat if I could only find under what category I filed the recipe!  Seriously, I had to look up the recipe online as I could not locate mine. I’ve checked soups, side dishes, lunches, vegetables…nada.  Luckily I remembered pulling it from Food & Wine magazine. See, I told you I need to work on it.

Enough of my problems and hangups.  Make this dish.  Whatever it is.  Because all that matters is it is one big bowl of tastiness.

Chickpeas and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Kosher salt

One 8-ounce bunch of Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Torn basil and marjoram leaves, 
for garnish

Finely grated Pecorino Romano, 
for serving

Procedure:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant 
but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and 
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.

Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Spoon into bowls and garnish with torn basil 
and marjoram leaves. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.

Weekly Winner:  This Salad Has Got It Going On!

Let’s face it, salads can be boring…mundane… expected.  It’s the go-to dish when you want to feel good about what you’re eating. But so often, to make them palatable you need to fill them with things that perhaps, are not so good for you. Creamy dressings, crunchy fried croutons, gooey cheeses, bacon!!! Seriously, when you get done with one of those salads, you just might as well have had a sandwich.

This is not one of those salads.  Toasted Couscous & Chard Salad is everything a salad should be.  First of all, its gorgeous. Nobody wants to eat an ugly salad.  In addition, it’s chock-full of nutritious ingredients, it has a multitude of textures going on, loads of unexpected flavors, and best of all – not an unhealthy ingredient in the entire bowl. It also just so happens to includes my most-recent total obsession:  Pomegranate Molasses. I honestly don’t know how I’ve lived so long without this stuff.  I also don’t know why I’ve gone so long without making this salad.  It is a true keeper.  Try it and see if you don’t agree. The recipe comes from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine and the only change I’ve made was with the beets.  I did not have raw golden beets so I used cooked red beets and simply diced them.

Toasted Couscous & Chard Salad

Serves 8 [in actuality, more like 4 to 6 — no one is only going to have a cup of this salad!]

Ingredients:

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)

6 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup Israeli couscous

1 cup grated uncooked golden beets [or 1 cup small diced cooked red beets]

1 cup lightly packed Italian parsley

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

1/4 cup mint leaves

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

8 oz rainbow chard, stemmed and thinly sliced

Procedure:

  1. In a small saucepan bring chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover; keep warm
  2. Meanwhile, in a very large nonstick skillet melt butter with Aleppo pepper, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper over medium-high heat. Add green onions; cook 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add couscous; cook 5 minutes until toasted.  Slowly stir in chicken broth.  Cook until all liquid is absorbed and couscous is al dente.  Stir in beets; heat through.
  3. Remove skillet from heat.  Add parsley, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, mint, vinegar and molasses; toss to combine.  Toss with chard and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Weekly Winner:  Mean, Green, …Game Food??

My husband puts up with a lot from me.  He willingly goes along with my quest to seek out the newest restaurants.  He is enthusiastic about my experimenting with new ingredients and is a ready taste-tester.  For the most part he is even on board with my attempts at eating healthy and “going green”.  As long as I don’t mess with the classics or decide to forego bacon entirely he’s a very patient man.  Imagine his skepticism then, when I announced that I had found our dinner for Super Bowl Sunday and it would be totally, and utterly, vegetarian!  Yep, that’s right.  For the Big Game — the most sacred bastion of junk food there is — I was making Roast Broccoli Heroes.

I mentioned he was skeptical.  However, once he learned that said Roast Broccoli Hero would include French-fried onions and that the recipe came from Alton Brown’s newest cookbook EveryDayCook, he gave in.  And you know what? They. Were. Awesome!  These weren’t just good vegetable sandwiches.  These were decadent-tasting, messy, indulgent, yumminess-in-a-roll.  Seriously, they were probably one of the top 5 sandwiches I’ve had in the past year.  Certainly in the top 3 that I’ve made (possibly ever).  The roasted broccoli tastes meaty and the combination of the mayonnaise, pickles and chili sauce amps up the umami factor big-time.  Oh yeah, and then you add cheese and those French-fried onions.  Trust me, you will not miss the meat in this sandwich. It was enthusiastically approved by said skeptical husband.  We’ll be making these again for sure — and soon!

Roast Broccoli Hero

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced bread and butter pickles

1/2 cup pickle brine (from the bread and butter pickles)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 Tbsp chili sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 large head of broccoli (about 1 pound), chopped into florets, stalk thinly sliced into rounds

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp Kosher salt

4 6- to 8-inch French bread rolls

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup prepared fried onions

4 oz. ricotta salata, grated

Procedure:

  1. Het oven to 400F
  2. Combine the pickles, pickle brine, garlic, ginger, chili sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl.  Allow the pickles to marinate while you deal with the broccoli
  3. Toss the broccoli with the olive oil and salt in a large bowl, spread into an even layer on a half sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes.  Toss and roast for another 15 minutes.  When you remove the broccoli from the oven, move a rack under your broiler and heat the broiler to high.
  4. Split and lightly toast the rolls under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. For each sandwich: Lightly spread mayonnaise on each side of the rolls then evenly distribute the pickles.  Next, layer on the broccoli, then the fried onions and top with the ricotta salata.

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