Weekly Winner: Another Pork Pasta Palooza!

pork pastaYou know you’re doing something right when your husband equates a Friday night dinner with “some of the best pastas I’ve had in any restaurant”. Boo-ya, Spatula-drop!

Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with pork shoulder, cheese, and pasta — not just any pasta either but egg pappardelle.  Pappardelle is definitely my “favorite” pasta (if it’s possible to have a favorite) and I truly believe that one can save the world with a pork shoulder.

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is definitely not a quick meal to make, but it is relatively “hands-off”.  The trick is to let the oven work it’s magic on that pork shoulder, breaking it down and making it luscious.  The lemon really freshens up the ragu so that it seems lighter but who are we kidding, this is definitely not diet food, but it is supremely delicious, satisfying, apparently “restaurant-quality” food.  That’s good enough for me!

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large fennel bulb, 2 Tbsp fronds chopped, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored and chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 (1-1/2 lb) boneless pork butt roast, well trimmed and cut in half across grain

1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

12 oz pappardelle

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

Procedure:

  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350F. Cook pancetta and 2/3 cup water in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and dark fond forms on bottom of pot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel bulb and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2.  Stir in cream and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add pork and bring to boil over high heat.  Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large plate and let cool for 15 minutes.  Cover pot so fond will steam and soften.  Using spatula, scrape browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4.  While pork cools, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Using 2 forks, shred por into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.  Return pork and any juices to Dutch oven.  Cover and keep warm.
  5. Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and add it to Dutch oven.  Add Pecorino and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and cheese is fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes.  If desired, stir in remaining reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to adjust sauce consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fennel fronds.  Serve immediately, passing extra Pecorino separately.
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Weekly Winner: A New Take on Spaghetti & Meatballs – Thai-style

thai turkey meatballWho doesn’t love a bowl of noodles and meatballs?  Regardless of the particular ingredients it is approachable, familiar comfort food at its best.  But when you can take an old standard such as spaghetti and meatballs and not only lighten in up, but spice it up and put a Thai-style spin on it, sign me up!

Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Broth and Noodles comes from Epicurious and was the perfect dinner on a chilly, rainy spring evening. The original recipe calls for snap peas, but required such a small amount that I did not want to get them just for this recipe so I substituted frozen edamame.

There are a lot of separate steps in this dish, but it’s all easy and comes together quickly.  The only downside is dirtying up a few extra bowls but the coziness factor of this dish definitely makes up for it.

Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Broth and Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the meatballs and noodles:

  •  1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  •  6 oz sugar snap peas, strings removed [or frozen edamame]
  •  1 medium red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced into 1/4″ thick strips
  • 4 oz dried rice noodles, such as pad Thai noodles
  • 2 tsp virgin coconut oil [insert my eye roll here] or grape seed oil

For the broth:

  •  1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil [again, insert my eye roll here] or grape seed oil
  •  2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1-1/2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
  •  1-1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
  •  1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  •  2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  •  1 tsp soy sauce
  •  3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste [I used about 2/3 this much to control heat]
  •  Lime wedges, chopped peanuts, basil leaves for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet or 13×9 glass or metal baking dish with parchment.
  2. Beat egg in a large bowl with a fork. Add turkey, panko, scallion, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and 1/2 tsp salt and stir well to combine.  Using your hands, roll mixture into 1″ balls, packing firmly (you should have about 25).  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  3. Roast meatballs, turning once halfway through, until firm and cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatball registers 165F, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook snap peas (or edamame) and bell pepper in a medium pot of boiling, well-salted water for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a colander with a spider, slotted spoon, or tongs, reserving water in pot.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Return water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain noodles , then transfer to a large bowl and toss with oil.
  5. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add coconut milk, curry paste, broth, lime juice, soy sauce and salt.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  6. Divide noodles among bowls, ladle broth over and top with meatballs and vegetables.

Weekly Winner: Solitary Stir-Fried Noodles

stir fry udonI’m flying solo this week which means I usually fall back on old favorites or make something that I know my hubby doesn’t care for.  But this past week I came across this super simple noodle dish, Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fried Udon, in Bon Appetit which has two of my favorite components:  Pork and big, fat chewy udon noodles. I had to try it.

I thought the cabbage was a strange add in this and honestly, I was very close to subbing in coleslaw mix rather than the big pieces of cabbage called for.  I’m really glad I didn’t.  Those big pieces were such a pleasant surprise.  The other surprise was how incredibly quickly this comes together since you use instant udon.  Leftovers, by the way… are fabulous the next day!

Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fired Udon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups very coarsely chopped green cabbage (from about ¼ medium head)
  • 2 7-ounce packages instant udon noodles, flavor packets discarded
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 5 scallions, white and pale-green parts coarsely chopped, dark-green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup mirin
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Cook cabbage, tossing often, until edges are browned, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tossing often, until thickest parts of cabbage are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat, set aside.
  2. Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with 6 cups boiling water.  Let sit then drain.  Transfer noodles back to bowl and toss with sesame oil.  Add reserved cabbage and wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high and add pork, breaking up and spreading across surface of pan with a spatula or tongs.  Cook pork, undisturbed, until underside is browned, about 3 minutes  Break up meat into smaller pieces and continue to cook, tossing, just until meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  4. Add chopped scallions (the white and pale green parts), ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, tossing often until scallions are softened and inside of skillet starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  5. Add noodle mixture, mirin, and soy sauce and cook, tossing constantly and scraping up browned bits, until noodles are coated in sauce, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and mix in sliced scallions (the dark green parts) and 1 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  6. Divide noodles among bowls and top with more sesame seeds.

Weekly Winner: A Healthy Hack and Veggie Fix Combined

buffalo cauliflowerFirst things first:  I am in no way saying that this recipe will trick you into thinking your tucking into a big basket of buffalo wings.  It won’t.  However, if like me, you are trying to lighten things and find more virtuous versions of your cold weather comfort foods, this does the trick.  At least it did for me.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower and all the ways you can transform it.  To me it’s a great “blank canvas” to take on different flavors and textures.  It can be pureed to thicken soups, it can be roasted to crunchy, golden deliciousness, and it can be minced up to mimic rice or couscous.  Now, apparently it can be “buffalo-ized” as well.  Buffalo Cauliflower Salad comes from Eating Well Magazine and has all the “requirements” of buffalo wings (OK, except for the actual “wing”).  It has the crunchy carrots and celery, the tangy blue cheese and the nice spicy kick of the buffalo sauce.  And you’re eating a salad!

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (1 medium head)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and/or dill
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss cauliflower with oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until it is starting to soften and brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Combine hot sauce, butter and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the roasted cauliflower and toss. Return the cauliflower to the baking sheet and drizzle with the sauce left in the bowl. Roast until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes more. Stir to coat the cauliflower completely.
  5. Add lettuce, carrot, celery and onion to the dressing in the large bowl; toss to coat. Serve the salad topped with the Buffalo cauliflower and blue cheese.

Weekly Winner: One-Pan Peanut-Poultry-Potato ‘Palooza!

peanut chile chickenPeanut butter and chicken are like that unlikely paired odd couple you know.  “What do they see in each other?”  “How does that work? They’re nothing alike”.  Perhaps the answer is as easy as: They simply bring out the best or unexpected in each other.  Such is the case with Crispy Peanut-Chile Chicken with Sweet Potatoes.  While you maybe wouldn’t automatically think to combine spicy chiles, chicken, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and peanuts….once you do, you will understand the magic.

This unexpected recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine.  It comes together fairly quickly and easily –everything cooks in the same pan (easy cleanup!) so is quite doable for a weekday meal but also different enough and presents nice enough for a company dish.

Crispy Peanut-Chile Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 2 Thai bird chiles, minced (keep the seeds from one of them)
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2-1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 6 cups), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 lb.)
  • 7 oz. cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup)
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) shelled roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Procedure:

  • Thoroughly combine the peanut butter, chiles, 3 Tbs. of the oil, the lemon juice, 2 tsp. of the garlic, and 3/4 tsp. salt in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Lightly sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt, and then add to the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour, massaging every 15 minutes.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 375°F. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, on medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, the remaining garlic, 2 Tbs. cilantro, and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and the garlic is fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan, and cook until the sweet potatoes just start to soften, stirring once, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Remove the lid from the skillet, and add the tomatoes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and place smooth side up over the tomatoes, spooning marinade on top of each. Scatter the peanuts over the chicken, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 30 minutes.
  • Heat the broiler on high, then cook until the top of the chicken and the peanuts turn light golden, 1 to 2 minutes, watching closely so that it doesn’t burn. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving, sprinkled with the remaining cilantro.

Weekly Winner: Not Your Average Tuesday Night Chicken Dinner

glazed chickenI think chicken breasts get a bad wrap.  Yes, the can be bland and boring but that is not their fault!  It’s the fault of whoever cooks them!  Done right, they can be an easy, nutritious, and downright tasty go-to dinner pick.  Treat them right and they will reward you with a delectable, low-fat, protein-rich meal.  Because they are such a blank canvas, they take well to aggressive seasoning.  And this sweet-spicy combination is the perfect example.

Glazed Chicken Breasts with Currant-Pistachio Couscous, comes from Cook’s Country Magazine.  It brings the heat with harissa, but tempers it nicely with the apricot preserves.  It’s a super easy, uniquely different one-pan dinner that I’ll be making frequently this spring.

Glazed Chicken Breasts with Currant-Pistachio Couscous

Serves 4

2 Tbsp apricot preserves

1 Tbsp harissa

5 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dried currants

1 tsp grated lemon zest plus 2 Tbsp juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt, divided

4 (6 to 8-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/4 cups couscous

1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped.

Procedure:

  1. Combine apricot preserves, harissa and 1 tablespoon oil in bowl.  Transfer one tablespoon harissa mixture to second bowl and stir in currants, lemon zest and juice, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken until golden brown and meat registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to cutting board, brush all over with harissa-apricot mixture (without currants), and tent with foil.
  3. Bring water to boil in now-empty skillet over high heat.  Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in pistachios and harissa-currant mixture.  Slice chicken 1/2 inch thick and serve over couscous.

Weekly Winner: A Big Bowl of Satisfaction

ground turkey-quinoaThis is time of year that planning lunch gets hard.   I’m tired of soups and want something I can sink my teeth into.  The problem is it’s not quite “salad weather” yet.  There are still days I want some warmth to my lunches and to have something cooked rather than simply “assembled”.  I also want my lunch to be healthy and something that won’t weigh me down on the off-chance it warms up above freezing outside and I can actually go out and run around.  What’s a girl to do???  It’s simple… and its delicious…. make this Spiced Ground Turkey-Quinoa Bowl with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.

This recipe, from Fine Cooking, hits all the right notes.  It has some warm elements (the turkey-spinach mixture) and some fresh elements (the tomatoes and olives) and even something creamy to round it all out (the yogurt-tahini sauce).  I also like the fact that everything is not all mixed together.  Keeping everything separate keeps it interesting – every bite has a different taste and a different texture.  There’s nothing new or revolutionary here but it is a nice combination of ingredients that you may not think to put together.  It is quick to make and serves as the perfect bridge from winter lunch to spring lunch.

Spiced Ground Turkey-Quinoa Bowl with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb ground turkey

1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp sweet paprika

1-1/4 tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 oz fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)

2 Tbsp tahini

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

5 oz cherry tomatoes, halved (about 1 cup)

2 oz Kalamata olives, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Procedure:

  • Cook the quinoa according to package directions
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the turkey, 1 Tbsp of the garlic, the paprika, cumin, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, and cook, breaking up the turkey into small pieces, until fully cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted.  Keep warm
  • In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, tahini, and lemon juice with the remaining 1 tsp garlic.  Season with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.
  • Divide the quinoa and the turkey mixture among four bowls.  Dollop with the yogurt sauce, and top with the tomatoes and olives.

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