Weekly Winner: Ravioli Ridiculousness — Because you can’t be good all the time!

ravioli casseroleBaked pasta is good.  Stuffed pasta that is baked is better.  Stuffed pasta which is layered in a casserole with sausage is …. the BEST.  EVER.

Mushroom Ravioli and Sausage Casserole is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a light dish.  However it isn’t as over-the-top as you’d think.  It really works and actually comes together as a somewhat presentable dish.  And while it would be perfectly acceptable to serve this dish at a casual dinner party with friends, my preferred situation for it is curled up on the couch in my jammies.  This big dish of deliciousness comes from Food Network Magazine.

Mushroom Ravioli and Sausage Casserole

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

10 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced

Freshly ground pepper

6 ounces mild Italian sausage, casings removed

3 cloves garlic (2 thinly sliced, 1 grated)

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, chopped [I used oregano]

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 10-ounce packages refrigerated mushroom ravioli

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and marjoram (or oregano) and cook until softened, 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup water, bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli in the boiling water as the label directs. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain. Add the ravioli and the reserved cooking water to the sauce; stir to coat. Transfer half of the ravioli and sauce to a 9-by-13-inch broiler-proof baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Top with the remaining ravioli, sauce and mozzarella.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small microwave-safe bowl until melted. Stir in the grated garlic and breadcrumbs; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the baked ravioli and broil until browned on top, about 2 minutes. Top with the parsley.

Weekly Winner: Farro + Fennel + Feta = Fantastic Fall Feast (in a bowl!)

farro bowlThis dish should not be this good.  There is no rational reason for it.  I mean, I knew it would be OK, a unique new lunch, but seriously…. I just kept eating it and asking “Why is this so delicious”!!  The name certainly doesn’t hint at the unique combination of tastiness that awaits — Farro Bowl with Pomegranate Vinaigrette.  Yawn, right??  No!

There’s just something about the combination of the caramelized sweet potatoes, raw fennel, earthy farro, and tangy feta cheese that just keeps you coming back from more.

All I can tell you is just make this mysterious grain bowl and surprise yourself.  Then, maybe you can let me know why it’s so dang good!  The recipe comes from Real Simple Magazine.

Farro Bowl with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups uncooked farro

6 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1 tsp kosher salt, divided

1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1 cup refrigerated pomegranate juice

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cups baby spinach

1 medium fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced, plus chopped fronds for serving

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 oz)

Procedure:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high. Stir in farro and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.
  • While farro cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium. Add sweet potato, ¼ cup water, and ¼ teaspoon salt; cover and steam for 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until water evaporates and sweet potato is tender and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to bowl with farro
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add pomegranate juice; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to ½ cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, mustard, pepper, and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Remove from heat and gradually whisk remaining ¼ cup oil into dressing.
  • Add ¾ cup dressing to farro mixture and toss to coat. Add spinach and fennel; toss gently. Divide among 4 bowls and drizzle with remaining dressing. Top with cheese and garnish with fennel fronds.

 

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.

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.

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