Rigatoni with a rich tomato sauce!

Tonight I made a dish for Paula that was in the latest Rachael Ray magazine. It was rigatoni with a sauce based on pancetta, balsamic vinegar, onions and tomatoes. It was delicious! Best of all, it was not that hard to make…

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 8 ounces of diced pancetta
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large fresh bay leaves
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of aged Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 pound mezze rigatoni, rigatoni or penne rigate
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Heat a large saucepan or skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Add the guanciale or pancetta and cook, stirring often, until the fat renders, 3-4 minutes. Add the onions and garlic. Season with the sugar, salt, and pepper and then add the bay leaves and cook, partially covered, until the onions soften, at least 5-6 minutes. Add the chicken stock and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring often, until absorbed into the onions, at least 2-3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you add them to the sauce. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally until ready to serve.

Salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until 1 minute shy of the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain.

Remove the bay leaves from the sauce. Toss the pasta, cooking water, and a handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the sauce until the pasta is coated. Serve in shallow bowls and pass more cheese at the table.

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Pork and Broccoli and Quinoa…a tasty combination!

Paula worked on Saturday night so we didn’t have dinner together. But she was off from work on Sunday so we were able to enjoy a meal together. Afterwards we played a couple of games and watched another episode of “The Crown” on Netflix. It was a most pleasant evening.

We had a pork tenderloin piece in the freezer and I decided to use it. There was a recipe that I found in the latest issue of Food Network magazine that called for combining the pork, broccoli, and a sweet potato in a bowl with some quinoa. Sweet potato and quinoa are two of Paula’s favorites so I figured this had to be a success! It was. She enjoyed it along with the bottle of malbec that I bought. If you want to try it, here is what you will need to do…

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Halve 1 pound of pork tenderloin (about 1 piece) crosswise, then halve lengthwise. Rub 2 cloves of grated garlic into the meat along with 1 teaspoon of dry oregano and 1 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin along with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Cut 1 peeled sweet potato into 3/4-inch pieces. Cut about 2-3 cups of broccoli into florets. Toss the sweet potato and broccoli in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast on the upper oven rack, stirring once, until lightly browned and tender, about 20-25 minutes. While the sweet potato and broccoli are roasting, cook the quinoa as the label directs.

While the vegetables and quinoa cook, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the pork and transfer the skillet to the lower oven rack. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 140-145 degrees F. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

Stir 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, a few red pepper flakes, 1 clove of grated garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the quinoa and vegetables among four soup bowls. Slice the pork and add to the bowls. Drizzle with the orange sauce. Enjoy!

Barbecue and sides

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Last night Paula and I enjoyed some homemade barbecue. We had a pork shoulder that was rubbed with a variety of spices (paprika, black pepper, brown sugar). The recipe is from an old Bon Appetit and it is quite tasty. Although the recipe calls for cooking the pork over a grill, we have used the slow-cooker for all these years. After we rub the pork, I put it in the slow-cooker and then add the mop (cider vinegar, black pepper, salt, water, oil and Worcestershire sauce) to the pot. We cover it and cook it on low all day long. When it is time for dinner, we just use a fork to pull it apart. Paula and I enjoyed our barbecue on hamburger rolls but you could just put it on your plate.

Tonight we had homemade coleslaw and potato salad with the barbecue. It really hit the spot, especially since it was cold outside and we were expecting snow later in the evening. But in all honesty, you can enjoy this barbecue any time of the year. It is an incredible recipe and makes barbecue that is just as about as tasty as the ‘cue that you will find in some of North Carolina’s best barbecue joints.

Tasty – and easy-to-make – Green Chicken Chili

We had some rotisserie chicken in the freezer and so I decided to make this recipe for dinner tonight. It was a Green Chicken Chili that I read about in the September issue of Cooking Light. I saved the recipe until the weather got chilly. Winter has finally arrived so I decided to make it. If you want to make it, you won’t need too many items from the grocery store:

  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans of cannellini (or Great Northern) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 2 (4-oz.) cans of mild chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) of rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup of sliced radishes, if desired
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro leaves, if available
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced

Place 1/2 cup stock and 1 can beans in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cumin and chiles and cook for 1 minute. Add the bean mixture, 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 can beans, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and the salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Divide chili among 4 bowls. Top with radishes (if desired), sour cream, cilantro (if available), avocado, and sprinkle with a few grinds of black pepper.

Italian Wedding Soup

I am planning to go away this weekend while Paula stays at home due to work. As a result, I wanted to leave her with some food in the refrigerator to make things easier for her. I saw this recipe for Italian Wedding Soup in one of my old Cooks Illustrated issues and decided it might be good to try since we have never had this soup.

The first thing that I needed to do was make the meatballs. The required ingredients were:

  • 1 slice of hearty white sandwich bread minus the crusts and torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 teaspoons of grated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 ounces of ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 6 ounces of 85-percent ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons of minced fresh oregano

Combine the bread, cream, Parmesan, onion, garlic and pepper (to taste, I used 1/4 teaspoon) in a bowl. Mush the mixture to create a paste. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the pork, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the bread mixture as well as the beef and oregano. Mix on medium-low speed to combine everything, scraping the bowl as necessary. Using moistened hands, make meatballs. They should be about 1-2 teaspoons each and you should get about 30-35 meatballs when you are done. Refrigerate until needed.

You also need to make a broth and to do this, you will need the following:

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
  • 4 ounces of ground pork
  • 4 ounces of 85-percent ground beef
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 2 cups of water

Heat the onion, fennel, garlic, porcini, pork, beef and bay leaf in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook stirring frequently until both meats are no longer pink. Add the wine and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken and beef broth as well as the water. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Strain the broth to remove as many solids as possible. Wipe out the Dutch oven and return the broth to the pot.

When it is time to make the soup, bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup of ditalini pasta and 12 ounces of kale that hast been stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.. Cook stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and return the soup to a simmer. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through. This should take another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

The soup was delicious! I bought a loaf of crusty bread and we had it with the soup. It soaked up the tasty broth ready well.

Dinner with an old friend

Our friend Susan came over to the house for dinner. I cooked up some tilapia with a wine-shallot sauce with lemon and capers. It was a variation of a recipe that I found in one of my old Cooks Illustrated issues from 2005. I also made some risotto with carrots. We had some broccoli and brussels sprouts in the refrigerator so we cooked them as well.

I cooked the tilapia by first patting the fillets dry and seasoning them with salt and pepper. I let them sit for about 5 minutes to allow the salt to pull out some moisture from each fillet. Then I coated both sides of each fillet with flour, shaking off the excess. I heated 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. When the oil was shimmering, I added the fillets and reduced the heat to medium. I cooked the fillets for about 2 minutes, until the edges were opaque and the bottom started to brown. Then I flipped them and repeated the procedure for the other side. Once they were cooked, I transferred them to a plate and kept covered while I made the sauce.

To make the sauce, I heated 2 teaspoons of canola oil in the skillet over medium heat. Then I added the 1/2 cup of minced shallots and cooked, stirring frequently until they softened. This took about 2 minutes. At this point I added 1/2 cup of dry wine and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and increased the heat to high. I brought the liquid to a boil and continued boiling it for about 3 minutes to reduce the liquid. Then I removed the pan from the heat and added 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon of capers, 1 teaspoon of dry parsley and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. I whisked everything together until they were combined. When it was time to eat, I spooned the sauce over the fish.

The risotto was made by chopping 1 large carrot. I cooked the carrot in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften the carrot. Then I added 1/2 of a medium onion that had been chopped, stirred them into the carrots and cooked the onion for 2 minutes until it softened. Then I added 1 cup of arborio rice, stirred it into the carrot-onion mixture and cooked the rice for 2 minutes. Then I added 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth to the mixture. I stirred everything and cooked it in the microwave for 7 minutes. When the seven minutes was up, I stirred everything, added another 1 1/4 cups of  chicken broth and cooked for another 7 minutes. When the rice finished cooking, I stirred in some freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Paula cooked the broccoli and brussels sprouts in a non-stick skillet to brown them. When they finished browning, she added some balsamic vinegar for flavor.

We enjoyed the meal with a nice bottle of white wine. Susan enjoyed the food and we were glad to spend some time with her. It had been too long. All of us were too busy so it was good to finally find some time to spend together.

Beef Stir Fry tonight…

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I made a beef stir fry tonight for dinner. This is an easy meal to make and you can do most of the preparation ahead of time if you want. I cut up the broccoli, onion and red bell pepper before I went to school today. I also cut up the chuck steak into bite-size pieces. When I came home from school, I put rice in the rice cooker. After the rice was finished cooking, I prepared the rest of the stir fry. I put a few tablespoons of canola oil in the wok over high heat. When the oil was hot, I added the vegetables and cooked them for 2-3 minutes. I removed the vegetables and added the meat to the wok. I cooked the meat for 3-4 minutes until it was done. Then I added the vegetables back to the wok and stirred everything up for another minute.

You can use most anything for a sauce from soy sauce to hoisin sauce to something that you buy from the store. I had some leftover sauce from a previous time that I made stir fry and I used that. This sauce had soy sauce, brown sugar, ground ginger and garlic all mixed together. It gave a good flavor to the meat and vegetables. I served the meat and vegetables in a bowl and we had the rice on the side. It makes it easier to eat with chopsticks.

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