Weekly Winner: Quarantine Cooking Continued – Snobs Need Not Apply

Spam Stir FryCall it fate, call it serendipity, call it the need for quarantine comfort food, but this week’s Weekly Winner has a strange coincidence to it.  Since this whole “stay at home” thing began, I have seriously tried to limit the shopping I do for us and my clients to once a week.  That one shopping trip is quite monumental.  I also try to at least have a vague idea of what I’m cooking for me and hubby so that I know what to get and avoid the last minute race to the store for one or two ingredients.

This week while planning out a rough outline of our meals, I new one thing was a definite. Spam Fried Rice.  Yeah, I know…. “Ew! Canned meat”.  Fine, judge me if you want but it’s awesome when prepared properly and I, for one, am not above canned meat.  I had planned to use up any leftover bits of veggies that collected during the week for said fried rice, but wanted to make sure it had broccoli in it.  So, broccoli was the only item I had to purchase for this dinner. Yes, I actually had the Spam in my pantry — that stuff keeps for years!

After the massive shopping trip and putting everything away after sanitizing, I sat down and checked my email.  In my inbox is my daily Epicurious recipe and what is it for? Broccoli and Spam Stir-Fry!!  I kid you not!!  It was meant to be!! The cooking gods were telling me that, while I was on the right track with my Spam fried rice…. perhaps I could up my game!  I had to try it.  I may never make plain, old Spam fried rice again!  The only change I made to the dish was the addition of those super-sweet baby peppers because I had planned to use them and didn’t want them to go to waste.

So, haters are gonna hate, but if you’re not a food snob and want a tasty, (dare I say somewhat exotic) bowl of comfort, then be brave and give this dish a whirl!

Broccoli and Spam Stir-Fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, finely grated

3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

3 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar

1 Tbsp finely chopped mint

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the stir-fry:

1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli (about 1 lb), 1/2″ trimmed from stem

1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 Tbsp finely grated ginger

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp peanut oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise, rings separated

Kosher salt

1 (12-oz) can Spam classic, sliced into 1/4″-thick planks, planks halved lengthwise

1-1/2 cups cooked farro or brown rice (I opted for brown rice)

Preparation:

  • For the vinaigrette: whisk garlic, oil, vinegar, and mint in a small bowl to combine; season with salt and pepper.  Set aside
  • Hold broccoli so crown is resting against the cutting board and stem is pointing up and slice through stem all the way down through the crown to create 1/4″-thick planks. Working one at a time, lay planks flat against the board and slice lengthwise through stems to create 1/4″-thick strips with florets attached on top.
  • Mix tamari, ginger, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp water in a bowl to combine. Set aside
  • Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and immediately season with salt.
  • Set skillet with oi back over medium-high and cook Spam in a single layer, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • Cook broccoli in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Mix in rice or farro and reserved tamari sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Mix in Spam and transfer to a platter or bowls.  Drizzle reserved vinaigrette over and top with crispy shallots.

 

Weekly Winner: For St. Patrick’s Day – “Green” Pasta?

IMG_0416As much as I enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day I am totally not a fan of the typical corned beef meal.  I’ll state it right here – I dislike Corned Beef!  So sue me.  Instead of going the traditional route, I decide to embrace the green.  Natural green that is, not food colored bread, beer or in the case of Friday night’s dinner pasta.  So what was for dinner?  Broccoli Bolognese with Orecchiette.

This dish actually makes broccoli feel decadent and luxurious.  Yes, there’s butter…. yes, there’s cheese…. yes, there’s pork (yay!) but overall this is veggie-heavy dish that tastes like a cheat meal.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine. It’s relatively quick, it’s relatively easy, it’s relatively healthy and it is a wonderful substitute to corned beef in my book.

Broccoli Bolognese with Orecchiette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli (1¼–1½ pounds), cut into florets, stalk peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 12 ounces fresh Italian sausage (about 3 links), casings removed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

Procedure:

  • Cook broccoli in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a colander and let cool (save pot of water for cooking pasta). Chop broccoli into small pieces; set aside.

  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook garlic, shaking skillet occasionally, until it starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add sausage and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and break up meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up sausage, until it is browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes.

  • Bring reserved pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until barely al dente, about 9 minutes (set a timer for 3 minutes less than the package instructions; it will cook more in the skillet).

  • Meanwhile, ladle about ½ cup pasta cooking liquid from pot into skillet with sausage and add blanched broccoli. Keep mixture at a low simmer, stirring often and mashing with spoon to break up sausage even more, until pasta is finished cooking.

  • Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer pasta to skillet, then ladle in ½ cup pasta water. Cook, stirring, until pasta absorbs most of the liquid and is just al dente, about 4 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted, then transfer pasta to a large bowl. Gradually add 1½ oz. Parmesan, tossing constantly until you have a glossy, emulsified sauce.

  • Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes and a drizzle of oil.

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.