Weekly Winner: Big Bowl of Brothy Goodness

brothy pastaI’m one of those weird people that won’t eat soup during warm weather.  Yeah, I’ll do the occasional gazpacho but basically, soup for me is off the menu from around Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Which is why I’m totally thrilled by the cooler weather here in Chicago — it means once again, “Soup’s On”!!

This recipe for Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas is soul-satisfying.  There’s a rich tomato broth, plenty of pasta, hearty chickpeas and just enough cheese to make me happy.  It’s quick, easy and is a great way to use up the various pasta “odds and ends” you have in the pantry.  The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and will be making a regular appearance on our table (now that summer is officially over)!

Brothy Pasta With Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 6 oz. orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

  1. Heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and garlic are both very soft and just beginning to brown around the edges, 5–6 minutes longer. Add rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chickpeas and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are slightly thickened, 6–8 minutes.

  2. Add pasta and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking, until pasta is al dente, 13–16 minutes depending on shape. Stir in parsley and 3 Tbsp. Parmesan; season with salt.

  3. Divide brothy pasta between bowls. Drizzle with more oil and top with Parmesan and black pepper.

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Weekly Winner: All Rise for Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz con polloIt seems every cuisine has their take on chicken and rice.  It’s just good, wholesome comfort food regardless of how it is prepared, or what else is included in the dish.  Perhaps the interpretation that I am most familiar with is the Mexican Arroz con Pollo.  This, is not that version.

I recently found this recipe for Spanish Arroz con Pollo in Cuisine at Home magazine.  The Serrano Ham, sherry, saffron and smoked paprika give this Arroz con Pollo its “flamenco flair”.  If there’s such a thing as a “Classy Casserole”…. this is it.

Arroz Con Pollo

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

3 oz Serrano ham, diced

2 cups diced yellow onion

2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

2 dried bay leaves

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads

1/2 cup dry sherry

2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes in juice, well drained

1 lb chopped cooked chicken

1 cup medium-grain rice, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives

1 jar sliced pimentos (4 oz) drained

1 cup frozen green peas

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted

1 Tbsp chopped orange zest

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Heat oil in a pot over medium until shimmering; add ham and cook until crisp, then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, paprika, and saffron to oil; sweat, covered, over medium heat, until onions soften, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, increase heat to high.
  • Deglaze pot with sherry, scraping up any brown bits, then reduce until nearly evaporated, 5 minutes.  Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
  • Stir in chicken, rice, olives, and pimentos; season with salt and pepper, then return to a boil.  Immediately transfer mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish, cover with foil, and transfer to the oven.
  • Bake casserole, covered, 25 minutes.  Remove foil, stir in peas and ham and bake 10 minutes more.
  • Combine parsley, almonds, and zest; sprinkle over Arroz con Pollo.

Weekly Winner: Tomato Lovers’ Take on Fried Rice

tomato fried riceThis is the time of year when the farmers that sell the amazingly sweet cherry tomatoes at my local market actually start to recognize me.  I’m sure the rest of their produce is awesome, but I make a beeline right to the cartons of cherry or grape tomatoes.  I cannot get enough of them!

Since I always have them on my kitchen counter, I’m always looking for new dishes to use them in. My new favorite? Tomato Fried Rice. While it would make a lovely side dish to some summery grilled chicken or fish, I was perfectly happy letting it take center stage as a wonderful meatless main course.

This super-easy gem of a dish comes from Bon Appetit. So, before tomato season is over, run, don’t walk to your local farmers’ market and buy these luscious little jewels and make this dish!

Tomato Fried Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 scallions
  • 1 lb. cherry and/or grape tomatoes of any and all colors
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1½ tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
  • 2½ cups chilled cooked long-grain white or brown rice
  • 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (for serving; optional)
  • ½ lemon

Procedure:

  1. Trim dark green tops from scallions and thinly slice; set aside.  Thinly slice white and pale green parts; set aside separately.
  2. Quarter any larger tomatoes and halve any small ones..  Place about one-quarter of tomatoes in a small bowl; season generously with salt and toss to combine.  Set aside
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Add reserved white and pale green parts of scallions and remaining three-quarters of tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and any liquid from tomatoes has evaporated, about 4 minutes.  Mix in garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add rice and stir to separate grains.  Cook just to heat rice through, about 3 minutes
  4. Scoot vegetables and rice to 1 side of skillet, then pour half of remaining sesame oil into pan. Add eggs and cook, stirring often, until just set, about 1 minute. Mix into vegetables and rice then drizzle in soy sauce and cook, stirring, just until wall combined.
  5. Transfer fried rice to a large bowl or platter.  Drain salted tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and spoon over rice.  Sprinkle with reserved scallion tops and red pepper flakes (if using) and drizzle with remaining sesame oil  Finely grate zest from lemon over and serve.

Weekly Winner: Sensational Simple Salmon Salad (with substitution)!

salmon saladWhen it’s hot and sticky in Chicago, I love a salad for dinner.  I also love salmon.  It is one of the few proteins that I don’t mind eating cold or at room temperature which makes it great for salads.  What I don’t love; however is watercress.  I find that it totally takes over a dish – much stronger than its delicate little leaves would lead you to believe!  So when I came across Nigella Lawson‘s Salmon, Avocado, Watercress and Pumpkin Seed Salad, I knew I’d give it a try — with one slight alteration. Now, without further ado, I present Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad.

Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

2 salmon filets (approx. 8 oz total)

2 spring onions, trimmed

1 tsp black peppercorns

2-1/2 tsp lime juice

2 tsp sea salt flakes

For the salad:

3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

5 oz arugula

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 ripe avocado

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt flakes (or to taste)

Procedure:

  1. Put the salmon filets in a small frying pan and cover with cold water.  Add the whole spring onions and peppercorns, squeeze in the lime juice and sprinkle in the salt, then bring to a boil, uncovered.  When the pan is bubbling, turn the filets over, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 7 minutes. Take the filets out of the liquid and leave to cool completely.  Once cool, the salmon will be cooked through.
  2. While the salmon is cooking, start on the salad.  Toast the pumpkin seeds by tossing them in a dry frying pan on high heat.  They will start jumping a little, and will darken and get a smokier taste.  When toasted, transfer to a cold plate.
  3. When you are ready to make the salad, put the arugula into a large shallow bowl (or split between 2 bowls), sprinkle with the vinegar and toss.  Add the salmon, removing the skin and tearing the fish into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Halve the avocado and remove the pit.  Spoon the flesh out onto the salmon and arugula.  Drizzle the oil over the salad, sprinkle with the salt and half of the toasted pumpkin seeds, and toss gently to mix.  Scatter the remaining pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

Weekly Winner: Pièce de Résistance Risotto

risottoWhat’s not to like about risotto, right?  It needs very little to be perfect.  Often, by adding a bunch of other stuff to it you only take away from the stunning simplicity of the dish.  Simple flavors are definitely the best.  The same can be said for tomatoes in summer.  Don’t mess with them.  They are fabulous just as they are — they need very little help to be sensational.  Put these two things together and you have the penultimate meal – Tomato and Parmesan Risotto.

The recipe for this bowl of awesomeness comes from Bon Appetit.  Honestly. after making this dish I am very tempted to trash all other risotto recipes.  They just seem overwrought and fussy.  However; perfect tomatoes will not be available year-round so maybe I’ll keep those other recipes around for the dead of winter.  Any other time, risotto means this dish.

Tomato and Parmesan Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more shaved for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

  • Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.

  • Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden and very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it darkens slightly and begins to stick to pan, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and nutmeg, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the tomatoes begin to burst, about 2 minutes.

  • Stir in rice; season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 3 minutes. Ladle in 2 cups broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8–10 minutes. Ladle in another 2 cups broth and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked through and most of the broth is absorbed, 12–15 minutes.

  • Add butter, 2 oz. Parmesan, and remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until risotto is very creamy looking, about 4 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Divide risotto among bowls. Top with shaved Parmesan and lots of pepper and drizzle with more oil.

Weekly Winner: Meatless Monday Merges with Taco Tuesday

TostadaAs a certified carnivore, it may surprise you to know that I think there are certain dishes in which meat, of any kind, just really isn’t important.  Seriously, why waste the extra calories, fat and work of having meat in a dish that truly doesn’t need it.  Case in point – Mexican food.  There’s little better than a perfectly constructed bean and cheese burrito — or in the case of last night’s dinner — a Chickpea and Chipotle Tostada.  This dish has everything a good tostada needs: a gooey base, shredded cheese, avocado and a zippy sour cream-based sauce.

This tasty, meatless treat comes from Taste of Home magazine, which surprisingly has a great collection of vegetarian recipes.  These are a bright, fresh, modern spin on the usual tostadas.  To make this even easier, I chose to use store bought tostada shells rather than toast up the tortillas as the recipe suggests.

Chickpea and Chipotle Tostadas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 12 corn tortillas (6 inches) – [I used store-bought tostada shells]
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure:

  1.  Preheat broiler.  In batches, spritz both sides of tortillas with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet; broil 4-5 inches from heat until crisp and lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. If you use store bought tostada shells – you can skip this step.
  2. For sauce, mix sour cream and salsa
  3. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir red pepper and onion over medium heat until tender, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.  Stir in broth, chickpeas, chipotles, cumin and salt; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Coarsely mash mixture with a potato masher; stir in lime juice.  Cook over low heat to thicken, stirring frequently.
  5. To serve, top tostadas with chickpea mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Weekly Winner – My New Go-To Grilled Chicken – Lovely & Lacquered

sprite chickenWho doesn’t love grilled or barbecued chicken?  Done right, it’s a thing of beauty.  Too often; however it is done wrong…. horribly wrong.  Scorched, flabby, half raw, dry — you name it, I’ve achieved it on the grill.  Truth is, it is not easy to grill skin-on, bone-in chicken.  Which is why I was skeptical when I came across the recipe for Lemon-Lime Lacquered Grill Chicken from Milk Street Magazine.

What was their secret for picture-perfect poultry perfection?  Pop! Yep, lemon-lime soda (along with a whole lot of other tasty additions).  While apparently Filipino in origin, this will now become Donna’s Chicago Chicken.

Lemon-Lime Lacquered Grilled Chicken (Inihaw Na Manok)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup soy sauce

6 Tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar

6 medium cloves garlic, peeled

4 bay leaves

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Kosher salt

1 cup lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7Up (I used Sprite)

3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks, trimmed and patted dry (I only used thighs and drumsticks)

1 Tbsp lime juice

Procedure:

  1. In a blender, combine the vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay, peppercorns and 1-1/2 tsps. salt.  Blend until well combined and the bay leaves are broken into tiny bits, 15-30 seconds.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then stir in the soda
  2. If using chicken breasts, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each in half crosswise.
  3. Cut 2 or 3 diagonal slashes about 1/2 inch deep through the skin and meat of each piece of chicken.  Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.  For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent.  Heat the grill, covered for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grates.  For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate; leave the primary burner on high and turn the remaining burner(s) to low.
  5. While the grill heats, transfer the chicken to a large plate, allowing the marinade to drip off.  Pour the marinade into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and set aside.  Set aside 1/3 cup for serving; use the remainder as a basting sauce.
  6. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Generously brush the pieces with basting sauce, then re-cover and cook until the thickest part of the breasts, if using, reaches 160F or the thickest part of the thighs and drumsticks, reach 175F, another 15-20 minutes.
  7. Brush the chicken with the basting sauce, then flip the chicken skin side down onto the hot side of the grill.  Cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute.  Brush the bone side with more basting sauce, then flip a final time and cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute more.  Transfer skin side up to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes.  Serve with the reserved sauce.

 

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