Weekly Winner:  Noshing on Noodles

There’s something about cold noodles that I just love.  They’re addictive and refreshing all at once.  Usually you find cold noodles in some sort of Asian variety, but if we’re being totally honest with each other, I’ve been known to dig into cold left-over Italian-style pasta as well.  A noodle is a noodle, right?

Cold Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and Kale from Bon Appetit was a happy find for me for several reasons.  First of all, they’re cold noodles – and not just any noodles, but ramen noodles (bonus!). Secondly it has roasted broccoli.  I am happy to eat broccoli in any way, shape or form (including raw) but roasted is definitely my favorite.  Finally, it served as yet one more way I can get hubby to happily eat kale.  I think the zip of the vinegar and spice of the sambal oelek has a lot to do with it, but I’m taking my victories however I can.

As the temperatures continue to rise here in Chicago, rest assured this will become not only my go-to lunch, but also an awesome side dish to take along to concerts, picnics and cookouts.

Cold Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and Kale

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large head of broccoli, cut into large florets with some stalk attached

2 garlic cloves, 1 finely grated, 1 thinly sliced, divided

1-1/2 tsp sambal oelek

1 Tbsp plus 1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, divided

3/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste

3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced, plus more for serving

1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, cut into 1-inch match sticks

4 cups chopped Tuscan kale leaves

2 (10 oz) packages fresh ramen noodles or 2 (3 oz) packages dried

Torn mint leaves and toasted sesame seeds (for serving)

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 450F.  Toss broccoli with grated garlic, sambal oelek, 1 Tbsp vinegar, and 1/4 cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and browned in spots, 20-25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk scallions, ginger, sliced garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and remaining 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup oil in a large bowl.  Add kale; toss to coat.  Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  • Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain; rinse under cold water.  Add noodles and warm broccoli to kale and toss to coat. Divide among bowls and top with mint, sesame seeds, and more scallion greens.

Weekly Winner:  It’s not easy being green — especially if you’re a meatloaf!

 I was not always a fan of meatloaf.  I never actually refused to eat it or anything, but it was never one of my favorites.  Just acceptable.  I’ve come to  realize that the reason for my previous thoughts on meatloaf was simply because it’s not easy to make a good meatloaf!  Most meatloaf is, at best forgettable and at worst, leaden doorstops.

Lately I’ve found some interesting recipes and have had success (both at my own dinner table and with my clients) introducing both a spinach-and-cheese-stuffed beef meatloaf and an amazingly popular horseradish-y glazed turkey meatloaf to my repertoire.  Then I found this recipe and I have to admit… I was intrigued.  Chicken and Broccoli — in a meatloaf.  What’s not to like?  Well, first there’s the color.  It is somewhat disconcerting to eat a green meatloaf.  Your survival instincts generally tell you to avoid such things.

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe.  It certainly is easy.  It’s definitely healthy.  I’m just not so sure it qualifies as a meatloaf.  It doesn’t really taste like a meatloaf, but it does most certainly taste good!  I also think it would make an awesome chicken burger and I intend to play around with that as well.

So bottom line, if you can get past the color, try this recipe.  I’m pretty sure that the recipe came from Martha Stewart Living, but for the life of me, I can’t find it online.  So I’ll give her credit for it.  The recipe worked beautifully, which is a sign that it probably came from Martha.  Again, my apologies for the picture.  I’ve included the picture from the magazine after the recipe, but I think they may have “dampened down” the green color. At least with me, you know there’s not going to be any photoshopping.  I post it like it turns out!

Chicken-and-Broccoli Meatloaf

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, stems peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices

Olive oil, for the pan

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 pound ground chicken

1 large egg, lightly whisked

1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

1-1/2 tsp coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Set a steamer basket or colander in a large saucepan filled with 2 inches water; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Place broccoli florets and stems in basket cover, and steam until bright green and just tender, 4 to 6 minutes.  Remove basket from pan; let cool slightly.
  2. Brush a 5×9 inch loaf pan with oil.  In a food processor, pulse onion, carrot, and celery until finely chopped; transfer to a large bowl.  Pulse broccoli in food processor until finely chopped.  Transfer to bowl.
  3. Add breadcrumbs, chicken, egg, 1 tablespoon mustard, Parmesan, dill, and salt to bowl.  Season with pepper.  Using two forks, mix until combined.  Transfer to prepared loaf pan.
  4. Stir together ketchup, remaining 2 teaspoons mustard, and brown sugar in a small bowl until smooth; brush evenly on top of loaf.  Set loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until glaze is caramelized and a thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour.  Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

Weekly Winner: Treading Ever So Cautiously Into Spring

Broccoli Grape Pasta SaladWalking outside, you’d never know that it is officially Spring here in Chicago.  The heat is still on and the snow still occasionally falls.  However regardless of what the weatherman predicts, my body and my tastes always seem ready for the change in seasons long before it actually happens.

During the winter, I almost always have soup for lunch, and although it certainly is still chilly enough to warrant a nice bowl of soup, my cravings have been for salads.  Problem is, the produce available is certainly not salad-worthy.  That’s why I love this week’s Weekly Winner.  It’s technically a salad, but hearty enough for chilly days.  And it has pasta ….. and bacon, so you know… there you go!  Need I say more?

The recipe comes from Southern Living Magazine and I did make one very important change (for me, at least).  The original recipe calls for pecans as the nut of choice.  Since I abhor them (and no, that is not too strong of a word here), I’ve changed it to pistachios because I had them on hand.  It could have been walnuts, cashews… really anything but pecans.  I know, I’d never make it as a Southern girl.

Broccoli, Grape and Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 cup chopped pistachios

8 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

1 pound fresh broccoli

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup diced red onion

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups seedless red grapes, halved

8 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake nuts in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems, and separate florets into small pieces using tip of a paring knife. Peel away tough outer layer of stems, and finely chop stems.
  4. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; add broccoli, hot cooked pasta, and grapes, and stir to coat. Cover and chill 3 hours. Stir bacon and nuts into salad just before serving.