Classy Mid-Afternoon Snack

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You might be thinking, does this chick really sit around on a Saturday afternoon, sipping wine and eating cheese and salami? Yes. Yes, I do. I don't wear heels while doing it or anything. But I got hungry. No one was around. I had goat cheese and various salamis in my fridge. The husband had just baked his bread the night before. I quickly assembled a plate, pouring myself some fancy balsamic vinegar for dipping, the one we brought back from our honeymoon in Italy. Then, I stretched out on the couch with my classy snack, and watched PBS, thinking if I spent less money on balsamic vinegar and wine, maybe I could afford cable.

Morning Sausage

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The deli where we buy our sausage casings, also sells their own variety of homemade sausages, including breakfast ones. The husband picked up a package of apple and maple links, and we cooked them up last weekend, along with eggs. We also had the husband's homemade bread, and berries to lighten up our morning meal.

Maple sausages smell delicious. And eggs cooked in the sausage grease, are super good. Although I can only speak for the yolks, since the white parts are neatly trimmed and handed over to whoever is willing to take them.


Chorizo, Take Two

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Remember the first time we made chorizo? Maybe not. Well, here's a refresher. It came out pretty good for our first time. But, we knew we could make it better. And we wanted to make more. We doubled the recipe to 10 lbs, and altered the spices -- adding oregano, omiting cilantro, increasing the paprika, garlic and cumin.
Our adjustments proved to be a success. Chorizo #2 was better. So much better, we wanted to share it with the world. But, we decided first we'd experiment on our friends. Butcher paper was bought. Labels printed. And our chorizo samples are slowly making their way into the world. So far the feedback has been good, but we're still determining if it was good enough to charge for.


Grilled Artichokes

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This was a fairly involved process, but with delicious results. There are just a few steps, but they take time.

First, trim and steam whole artichokes for about 20 minutes. Then cut in half and scoop out the choke - the messy part. Next, smother in olive oil, salt, pepper and grill then for about 5 minutes a side. These were some prickly artichokes, and they tried their best to make me bleed. Succeeding only once.

Grilling them adds a nice flavor. We dipped these into various mustards, and enjoyed them first with steak, then for lunch the next day.


Impromptu Pasta with Asparagus and Peas

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The other evening, I sat in bed looking through the May issue of Bon Appetit, with no dinner plans. Until I saw the fettuccine recipe. It called out to me. I listened. I went to the fridge. I went back to the room to look at the magazine again, then back to the fridge. Then I got tired, and smart, and took the magazine to the kitchen with me. I had all the ingredients, substituting Hungarian bacon for the pancetta, I got to work.

The dish came together quickly, making the condo smell like garlic and bacon. Delicious. With the recent house hunting we have been doing, it's been interesting to get different perspectives on how folks like their kitchens oriented. We like ours to open up to something, everything. I hate isolated kitchens, but I always hear complaints from folks about food smells throughout the house. I never get that. I like the way my food smells. Especially bacon. I can go to sleep to the smell of bacon.
Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus, and Pancetta
Recipe by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. May 2010

12 ounces fettuccine or penne
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

1) Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

2) Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese.

Mini Pizza with Roasted Peppers and Feta

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This quick pizza is not only tasty, but it's also pretty. And super quick. I almost always have roasted peppers in my pantry, as well as olives, so all I had to do is chop a few things, and assemble. This time I used feta, but you can pretty much use whatever cheese you like. Feta is nice here because it doesn't melt much, just gets warm and gooey. These cook up fast, 10-15 minutes at about 375 degrees.


Fancy Bean Series: Chili Beans with Radish and Cheese

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It feels like it's been weeks since I popped open a can of beans and made a meal. At least a blog-worthy meal. So, last week, I looked in the fridge and discovered I didn't have much, lots of different cheeses, but not much else. Oh, and radishes. I had lots of radishes. I sliced these up thinly. I selected the manchego cheese, and cut that up as well.

I went to my pantry, pulled out a can of chili beans, which I heated and spiced up with paprika, cumin and lots of oregano. I added some tomatillo sauce as well. Then from our humble balcony garden, I trimmed some gigantic green onions, and sliced those as well.

I have to say, these beans were pretty delicious. I really liked the crunchiness of the radish, and the hard manchego which melted slowly and not completely. Oh beans, we make a good, lazy team.

Risotto and Seafood Skewers

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I have stayed clear of risotto. I watch enough shows that tell me how easy it really is, and that I shouldn't fear it. But, I never quiet believe them. And I was right. Though very delicious, it took a really long time, standing directly over the stove, to make. I'm talking 40 minutes. For rice!

Earlier in the day, I made a shrimp broth by boiling shrimp shells with salt and pepper in some water. Nothing fancy. And I used the broth in my risotto, which gave it a rich, seafoody flavor. Yum, seafoody.

Alongside the risotto, we grilled jumbo shrimp, and scallops on skewers. And there was a salad with cucumbers, radishes, feta and a mustard dressing.
Creamy Risotto, with Asparagus and Peas
Since this was my first time making it, I kind don't remember all the details, but here's the jist.
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
stock, have plenty on hand, I used shrimp
butter, 3-4 tbsp
olive oil
1/2 pound of trimmed asparagus, cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup of peas
2 shallots, chopped fine
white wine
Pecorino cheese
salt and pepper

1) Heat olive oil and half your butter in a dutch oven, add your shallots and cook for a couple of minutes over medium heat.
2) Add rice, and coat with olive and onions. Toast a few minutes.
3) Add about 1/4 cup of dry white wine. Something nice.You can drink the rest while you cook, it's going to be a while.
4) Stir in the asparagus.
5) When the wine is about 3/4's absorbed, reduce the heat to the lower setting, and ladle in enough stock to cover the smoothed out risotto. When the added liquid level drops about 1/3, re-cover the risotto with more stock.
6) Continue this process for about 20-30 minutes. Just taste as you go along, you don't want it too hard, or too mushy.
7) When the stock absorption rate slows down considerably, add the cooked peas.
8) At the end of cooking, when there's just enough of moisture, but most of the liquid is absorbed, add the cheese and remaining butter. Remove from heat and stir the risotto well to blend in the cheese and butter.
9) Let it stand for 2-3 minutes and serve. By this time, you will be plenty hungry. And so will your guests.


Ginger Mint Julep

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I don't watch the Kentucky Derby, never have. But, I drink bourbon. And I wanted to partake in this American tradition somehow. So, as I logged on to google that day, the Everyday Food blog told me to make a ginger mint julep in honor of Derby day. I couldn't say no. It was especially easy since I have mint growing on the patio, and ginger waiting for me in my freezer.

I like any type of mint julep, but found that the ginger really made this already tasty drink even more delicious. Also, if you're not the biggest fan of bourbon, the ginger balanced things out. Although I didn't watch the Derby, I'm not even sure who was in the race, or who won, I did feel more American after having a couple of these.
Ginger Mint Julep
(from the Everyday Food blog)

In a classic mint julep cup or an old-fashioned glass combine 1 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add several thin slices of fresh peeled ginger and several sprigs of mint. Muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon. Fill glass with crushed ice. Add 2 ounces bourbon, stir until the glass is frosty on the outside and garnish with a sprig of mint.


Chorizo Tacos

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The husband aquired some homemade chorizo from a guy working at the restaurant down the street. And last week we decided to fry it up. The husband suggested we make tacos. I was opposed, for no good reason at all, except I wasn't feeling it. But once he cut up the cilantro and onions, and toasted the corn tortillas, I had changed my mind. Chorizo tacos sounded delicious. I had to have some.

The husband cooked up black beans. And I roasted fennel, which went surprisingly well with the chorizo. In a few minutes we were drinking beers, stuffing our faces, and watching The Wire.

Steak and Potatoes, from the freezer

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I am making great strides in emptying the freezer, especially all the Omaha Steaks stuff. I have placed an order with them twice, and now, those folks are stalking me. For a while they called weekly. Now I get bi-weekly mailings, and have officially blocked them from my gmail. But sometimes their deals are too good to pass up. I feel like I'd be losing money if I didn't order. And, they end up sending you all these weird free stuff, like potato balls. Delicious potato balls.

Last week, I fried up the last of the steaks, and baked the remaining potato balls. Although the portions were small, the meal still felt unhealthy, so I roasted broccoli and green beans in the oven to ballance things out.

I also made a super quick sauce for the meat. Using the same pan, I added a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard, a bit of red wine, salt and pepper, and in a few minutes had myself a decent sauce. Not great, but not bad at all!