I missed Meatless Monday last week, due to an error in my meal-planning. Oops! But I was back in business this week! I had a beautiful salad filled with all kinds of goodies. I roasted grape tomatoes*, grated some fresh gruyere, added cucumber, onion, edamame beans, and the finishing touch: homemade croutons. I topped the salad with a dressing made of champagne vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. I normally add some salt and pepper to the dressing, but since the croutons already had that, I didn't want to overdo it.
*To roast cherry tomatoes: First, cut all the tomatoes in half. Then, toss with olive oil, balsamic vinger, salt and pepper. It doesn't matter how much oil and vinegar you use - any extra will just roll off the tomatoes. Spread on a baking pan and cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. These are also awesome in pasta!
I found this amazing marinara sauce over at Smitten Kitchen. I am a big fan of pasta dishes that contain butter. (Actually, I am a big fan of just about anything with butter!) So, of course, when I stumbled upon this marinara that's made with butter, it was love at first sight! And it's ridiculously easy to make. Even better!! I made this sauce one night for dinner after work. It smelled so good while it was cooking, I kept running over and eating spoonfuls out of the pot.
The sauce turned out beautifully. It was delicious - I ate an embarrassing amount! I ate until I was absolutely stuffed. And then I ate some more. I finished it all off the next day for lunch. This is a great sauce to make for an everyday meal, but it's equally suitable for something more special. It's definitely a no-fuss sauce. Maybe you could throw on a little parm when you serve it, but other than that - it's perfect as-is!
Here's how to make my new favorite marinara:
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (the canned tomatoes add saltiness to the sauce)
1 28 oz can San Marzano* whole, peeled tomatoes (my can contained 9 tomatoes, for reference)
Over medium heat, add all three ingredients to a big saucepan (I used a 3 qt). When the butter gets soft and starts to melt, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir the sauce occasionally, and smush the tomatoes as you stir. Remove from heat and toss the onion.
This sauce comes out a little chunky. You could use a potato masher or an immersion blender to make it smoother.
*I think these are the best canned tomatoes, but it's totally ok to use whatever brand you like!
After a rejuvenating weekend, I am happy to report that I am back in the game. I did lots of catching up yesterday around the house. The laundry's caught up, the kitchen is clean, and my stress level is back within acceptable parameters. I made a less ambitious meal plan for this week, and stocked up at the grocery store. I feel better now that my cupboards aren't completely bare! I don't know about everyone else, but I LOVE going to the grocery store. I'm surrounded by food - what could be better than that?
Today is Meatless Monday, and I decided to try a Chana Masala recipe - it's something I've been wanting to take a crack at for quite some time, but I wanted to get the amchoor powder that is used in some recipes. I ordered it here. It's powdered unripe mango - it lends a fruity, sour note to whatever you're cooking. I was intrigued by this and just HAD to have it for my Chana Masala. I served it all over long-grain brown rice with a garlic naan. The recipe I used called for 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a hot green chili pepper. I used around 1/8 of a teaspoon of the cayenne and didn't use the chili pepper at all - and it was still too hot for me, although I do have a pretty low tolerance in the spicy department. So, while this was pretty good, it didn't quite hit the spot. I'll be adding a dollop of creme fraiche when I eat the leftovers, to make it a little more creamy and mild. I looked around online and it seems like there's an incredible amount of variation between recipes. I'll start bookmarking some that look less spicy. I'm determined to master this recipe. I am still working on perfecting beef stroganoff, but this will be next in line for my "test kitchen". I haven't had a real hit in the kitchen in quite some time it seems like *wipes away large tears*, but I'm stepping up to the challenge. I don't have any new recipes on tap for the rest of this week. I'll be continuing to tweak my beef stroganoff and eating lots of salads and leftovers.
In other news, we're finally seeing signs of spring around here. I couldn't be happier about that! We change the time next week, which means more light in the evenings. Soon we will be saying farewell to the loooooongest winter, and hello to the sunshine!
Tonight, I made beef stroganoff (sorry, no prep pictures - only leftovers!) I used a new recipe and it called for creme fraiche to make the sauce, which I was so excited about trying. The recipe also called for everything to be served over rice. That was a change for me - I am used to beef stroganoff being served over egg noodles. Well, I cooked it and served it up, and I didn't like it at all. At first, I thought it was the sauce I didn't like, but then I ate some of the meat and mushrooms out of the pan and it was good. I finally figured out that it was the rice that I didn't like. I've always eaten beef stroganoff with egg noodles, and I will do that from now on, too. And even though I liked the sauce, I thought it could have been better. I see a lot of other recipes calling for brandy or wine, and I am wondering if that would improve this sauce or kill it. I don't want to add garlic - I kind of feel as though that's a lot of people's go-to solution for adding flavor to things, and I don't always want garlic flavored everything. I want the sauce to enhance the beef and mushrooms, not compete with them. Basically, I loved the creme fraiche for this dish in place of sour cream. But, other than that - I think I'm still in search of a good beef stroganoff recipe.
Tonight, I decided to make Jamie Oliver's Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup, which I found in my beloved Jamie's Food Revolution cookbook. I seriously love everything I cook out of that book. This soup was so much easier to make than I thought it would be. And it was insanely more delicious than I thought it would be. I figured it would be good, but it absolutely blew me away! And I love that it's made with such simple ingredients.
Did I mention it's absolutely delicious? And that everyone should run out and make this immediately???
There was a tiny snafu in the cooking process. At the end, you have to liquify everything - mix the potatoes and the broth so it's an even consistency. I don't have an immersion blender, so I figured I'd just pour it all into my regular blender. Easier said than done. The soup didn't all fit in there, so I had to do it in two batches. Then, I accidentally hit the "high" button on the blender, and BAM! Soup everywhere!!! The walls, the floor, me! What a mess.
Thank goodness the end result was worth all that mess!
I really am enjoying cooking. The better I get, and the more I experiment with new and different foods, the more satisfying it is. It feels good to be able to create something that I am proud of and enjoy.
Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup
adapted from Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver
1 3/4 lbs sweet potatoes
2 stalks celery
2 medium onions
small bunch of fresh parsley
2 cloves of garlic
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
7 oz chorizo sausage
salt and pepper
1 3/4 quarts chicken broth
Peel and chop potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onions. Chop celery and parsley. Slice chorizo.
Add the chicken broth to a saucepan. Add chopped ingredients to a second saucepan with a little olive oil and the curry powder. Mix it all together. Cook for 10 minutes covered, but with a vent.
Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to a boil.
When chicken broth begins to boil, add to the rest of the ingredients. Continue to cook uncovered until sweet potatoes are soft (about 10 more minutes).
After the sweet potatoes are soft, use an immersion blender to mix everything until the soup is an even consistency. Then sprinkle with some chili pepper and enjoy!
Pancetta is an Italian meat that is dry cured with salt and various spices. It is basically Italian bacon. Unlike American bacon, pancetta is not smoked. So when you add pancetta to pasta or any other recipe, you get the lovely pork flavor without the smokiness of American bacon. Another difference is that pancetta usually comes rolled into a spiral shape. Pancetta is a wonderful substitution for American bacon or proscuitto - it's not as strongly flavored as proscuitto.
This weekend, I decided to experiment with pancetta. I have never cooked with it in the past (and only recently found out it existed!) First, I decided to have a go with a pasta dish - pancetta is Italian, pasta is Italian - sounded like a winner. And it was delicious!
Mini Pasta with Creamy Pancetta and Pea Sauce
adapted from Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver
10 slices pancetta
1/4 teaspoon dried mint
salt and pepper
1 lb mini pasta (I used mini-elbows)
blob of butter
2 cups frozen peas
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 a lemon
6 oz Parmesan cheese
First, boil water for the pasta. Slice the pancetta into small strips, add the pasta to its pot of water, and then put a large pan or wok over medium heat on the stove. When the pan is hot, throw in the blob of butter and a little bit of olive oil* and then add the pancetta. Sprinkle with pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is crisp. Next, add the frozen peas and then the heavy whipping cream and mint. After draining the pasta, add it to the pan with everything else. Squeeze the halved lemon over the pan. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir, stir, stir! Get everything mixed together until there's a nice, creamy sauce evenly coating everything. Remove from heat and serve.
*I recently learned from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat that adding a little bit of olive oil when you're cooking with butter will keep the butter from burning. Definitely a good thing to remember!
Next up, I decided to do a dip with caramelized onions (a current obsession) and pancetta.
Pancetta and Caramelized Onion Dip
(makes enough for a bunch of folks)
1 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup cooked pancetta (about 5 slices)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Caramelize onions and cook pancetta, allowing both to cool. Put them in a food processor and chop up a little. Mix the sour cream and mayo in a big bowl, then add the chopped pancetta and onions and spices. Mix everything thoroughly and chill in the fridge for an hour. Then serve with chips or veggies. I think the caramelized onions and pancetta add a yummy twist to ordinary dip. I think this would also be delicious served in a bread bowl.
Tonight I decided to make something pretty simple. I like the idea of being able to cook something different just about every night. When you're just cooking for one, you can end up eating the same thing for days. So, I am definitely on the hunt for meals that are easy to fix for one. Tonight's meal worked out beautifully, in that respect.
I just sauteed a piece of rockfish in butter with some Italian spices and Emeril's Essence (I love that stuff!). I stole Jamie Oliver's idea of using different kinds of beans together, and then put it all on top of some quick-cook couscous.
I was originally going to do some garlic or tomatoes with it or something, but I decided at the last minute to just go with the butter and a little bit of spice. I also squeezed a little bit of lemon juice over the whole thing at the very end. . . and voila - delicious!
I am still getting the hang of timing things in the kitchen. As in, what gets started first and when, and what needs to be done in advance. I'm not what you'd call efficient at this point, but following recipes more carefully seems to be helping me learn. (Imagine that!)