Weekly Winner: Silken, Spicy, Sumptuous … Swine!

IMG_0836So in my mind there is very little better than pig, noodles, and peanut sauce.  For me, that’s the trifecta of tastiness.  Guess what??  I found all of that in one recipe with some nice, bitter greens added to it.  Full disclosure, I didn’t have collard greens for this recipe so I substituted lacinato kale, which was awesome.  I’m guessing the collards would have been great as well.

This silky, spicy dish needs a hearty green and any would work just fine.   Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens comes from Bon Appetit and is quick, easy and totally delicious.  Seriously, whichever green you like, buy it and make this dish!

Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens (or Lacinato Kale)

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. regular-width rice stick noodles
  • ¼ cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 1½” piece ginger, peeled, cut into match sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, (or Lacinato Kale) ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced

Procedure:

  • Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Remove from heat; add noodles. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 4 minutes (time may vary by brand). Drain and rinse under cold running water.

  • Meanwhile, whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl. (Sauce will look a little broken and lumpy.)

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook pork, breaking up with 2 forks, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add collard greens (or kale) and cook, stirring occasionally, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add sauce and noodles and bring to a simmer; cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half and coats noodles, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

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Weekly Winner: Apparently it is easy (and tasty) being green.

Parsley IMG_0835gets a bad rap. Actually, I take that back — parsley gets no rap at all — it’s totally overlooked and ignored.  That’s a shame.  This bright, verdant herb really adds a lot more than simple “curb appeal” to a recipe.

Take this salad for example:  Chicken & Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and if you’re looking for a hearty, healthy, very “green” salad, then this one is for you!

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from one bunch)

1 cup fresh baby spinach

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1 medium garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cups cooked, shelled edamame

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped English cucumber

4 cups loosely packed arugula

Procedure:

  1. Combine parsley, spinach, lemon juice, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper in bowl of a food processor; process until smooth, about 1 minute.  With processor running, add oil; process until smooth, about 1 minute
  2. Stir together chicken, edamame, chickpeas, and cucumber in a large bowl.  Add pesto; toss to combine.
  3. Place 2/3 cup arugula in each of 6 bowls; top each with 1 cup chicken salad mixture.

Weekly Winner: Creamy, Dreamy, Guilt-free Pasta

IMG_0815I am not one of those people who ever feel guilty about eating pasta.  Carbs and I go way back and we’ll always be BFFs.  That’s one of the many reasons why I never want hubby to give up his Saturday morning running group.  It gives me carte-blanche to prepare a pasta dish every Friday night for dinner. Runners have to carbo-load, right??)

That does not mean I can go crazy and have sausage-laden, cheesy, ooey-gooey pasta every week (I, do not run).  I still want a meal that I won’t regret eating come Saturday morning.  That is why I absolutely love this Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini that I found in Cook’s Country magazine.  It tastes creamy and rich due in part to the partially smashed chickpeas and grated zucchini.  There’s also just enough cheese to satisfy without making it seem heavy.  All around the perfect summer pasta.

You know it’s good when hubby decided to freeze the leftovers to have again this Friday when I won’t be home to cook!

Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb linguine

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 zucchini, shredded and patted dry

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup)

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

Procedure:

  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a Dutch oven.  Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
  2. Heat oil, garlic, pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in now-empty pot over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and chickpeas and cook until zucchini is wilted and most of its excess moisture has cooked off, about 6 minutes. Using a potato masher, lightly mash chickpeas.
  3. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup Pecorino, parsley, lemon juice, pasta and reserved cooking water. Serve, passing lemon wedges, extra oil, and remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Silly Name, Sensational Salmon

IMG_0759Sometimes the name of a dish will draw me in.  It paints a picture of what the final dish will look like.  And if said name includes certain key words, such as “creamy, bacon, cheesy, or pork”, chances are I’m gonna read the recipe.  Then comes something called Bruschetta Salmon and I was stumped.  Was this toast with salmon on it?  Were they substituting the salmon for the bread in some paleo-gone-wild attempt at an appetizer?  How would that work?  Then I actually read the recipe and understood.  It’s basically salmon with all the flavors of a typical bruschetta used as a topping.  What a great idea!  And I might add, what a tasty, quick dinner!

A word of warning for the faint of heart:  this fish dish has cheese in it!  I know, I know…. blasphemy, right?  Wrong! It’s good. Get over it.  I’ve never quite understood the rule about no cheese with fish or seafood.  I’m sorry, a tuna melt?  Hello?  Enough said.  This tasty little rule-breaker of a recipe comes from Delish.com.  It’s quick, it’s cheerful, it’s dang yummy and I will definitely be making it again soon.  Silly name and all!

Bruschetta Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 (6-oz) salmon fillets

1 tsp dried oregano

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

3 cups halved cherry tomatoes

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup thinly sliced basil

Freshly grated Parmesan

Balsamic glaze, for drizzling

Procedure:

  1. Season salmon all over with oregano, salt and pepper
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil.  When oil is shimmering but not smoking, add salmon skin-side up and cook until deeply golden, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook 6 minutes, until salmon is opaque and flakes easily.  Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to skillet, then stir in garlic and shallots.  Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes just begin to burst. Remove from heat and squeeze over lemon juice
  4. Serve salmon with tomato mixture spooned on top.  Garnish each serving with basil and parmesan, then drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Weekly Winner: Perfect Picnic Pick

IMG_0536You know what I can’t stand?  Food snobbery.  By that I mean an elitist attitude regarding types of food, specific ingredients, or the origin of a dish.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for procuring local ingredients whenever possible, but I just think that fabulous food can come from anywhere and out of very humble ingredients.  If it’s prepared carefully and with love, that’s enough for me.  Good is good, end of story.

This little rant is my way of defending this pasta salad.  This will become my go-to summer potluck and picnic salad.  Italian Sub Pasta Salad is certainly not gourmet food.  There is nothing “artisanal” nor is any ingredient tricky to find.  The recipe itself comes from Kraft Food & Family magazine, and while I didn’t use all Kraft ingredients, you certainly could and it would be just as delicious.  This isn’t fancy and it shouldn’t be… it’s just super tasty, easy to pull together, and will be a fabulous addition to any cookout, picnic or summer get-together.

Italian Sub Pasta Salad

Makes 10 cups

1/2 lb spaghetti, cooked and rinsed

2 cups chopped, stemmed fresh kale

2 cups mixed red, orange, yellow and green cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/2 cup each slivered red onions and chopped pepperoncini peppers

1 can (16oz) chickpeas, rinsed

8 slices hard salami, cut into thin strips

6 slices Provolone cheese, cut into thin strips

1 cup Kraft Olive Oil Roasted Red Pepper vinaigrette

Procedure:

Combine all ingredients except vinaigrette in large bowl.

Add vinaigrette and mix lightly.

Refrigerate two hours.

Weekly Winner: Haters Gonna Hate – until they try it!

IMG_0529OK, some people might think I’ll need to give up my “personal chef card” (as if there is such a thing), after reading this post, and others are going to say to themselves “oh, wait a minute, I can see how that might work”.  That second group of people are who I’m talking to here.

So, first of all a bit of a back-story to this.  For quite some time now I’ve been seeing commercials for this product (not that it’s new, but obviously is going through a “rebranding”). I’ve also noticed it prominently displayed in grocery stores recently.  In a specific commercial they actually show said product in this exact dish with the tagline “Don’t knock it until you FRY it”.  Yes, that’s right I’m talking about Spam.  In particular Spam-fried Rice.  Something about the commercial immediately clicked with me.  I thought to myself, “Oh heck yeah, I’m gonna try that”!  And I did.  And it was fabulous.  And I’ll be making it again — possibly often.  Ah, the power of advertising!

I probably haven’t had Spam for over 30 years.  I’ve never had anything against it, and I definitely enjoyed it on the rare occasion my mom made it for us as kids.  I have never turned up my nose at it — to me, it’s far better than Canadian Bacon.  Oh wait!! Spam Eggs Benedict!  OK, add that to the list!  Maybe I should offer my services to the Spam recipe development people.  But I digress.

Without further ado — here is my personal recipe for Spam-Fried Rice.  As with all fried rice dishes it is open to all kinds of riffs and modifications.  This was simply the veggies I had on hand.

Spam-Fried Rice

Ingredients:

3/4 of a 12oz can of Spam Classic, cut into cubes

2 Tbsp peanut oil

1 tsp Sesame oil

3 cups cooked white rice, chilled

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp ginger, minced

2 large eggs, beaten

2 small carrots, diced

1 cup frozen peas

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and green parts separated

Procedure:

  1. In non-stick frying pan or wok, heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil.  Add eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring gently until just set.  Remove eggs to plate and break up into small pieces.
  2. Add remaining peanut oil and sesame oil to pan or wok.  Add scallion whites, carrot and Spam.  Cook, stirring often until Spam is crisped on edges and carrots are beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add rice and cook, stirring about 3-4 minutes more until rice is heated through.
  4. Add egg, peas, and soy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper and toss until thoroughly mixed.  Serve immediately topped with scallion greens

Weekly Winner: Punched Up Pork Chops

IMG_0521It’s no secret that when the carnivore in me comes rearing her hungry head, it’s very rarely steak that she’s looking for…. its a bone-in pork chop!  And while I’m incredibly happy with a simply-seasoned, perfectly-cooked, juicy chop — every once in awhile I go looking for ways to up my pork chop game (or at least provide some interesting variations).

I found just the right inspiration in the latest issue of Bon Appetit.  Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple-Turmeric Glaze.  These were awesome!  Just the right mix of spice and sweet but not so much flavor that it covered up the taste of the pork.  Everything came together in a super flavorful, super easy dinner.  This glaze would also be great on, well, anything!  I can see it on shrimp, chicken, beef…. more pork!  This just might replace my barbecue sauce this summer.

Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple-Turmeric Glaze

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil (for the grill)
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 4 1″-thick bone-in pork chops
  • Kosher salt

Procedure:

  1. Prepare a grill for high indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off; for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side); oil grate. Bring pineapple juice, honey, vinegar, mustard, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, and turmeric to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, swirling occasionally, until reduced to ¾ cup, 10–15 minutes. Let cool. Transfer half of sauce to a small bowl and set aside for serving.

  2. Season pork with salt. Grill over direct heat until browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Continue to grill, turning several times and basting with remaining sauce, until charred and coated with a thick layer of glaze, about 4 minutes. Move to cooler part of grill and take internal temperature of pork. If needed, continue grilling over indirect heat until an instant-read thermometer inserted into chops near bone registers 130°, 1–4 minutes more. Transfer pork chops to a wire rack and let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with reserved sauce alongside.

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