Eat It and Weep Pasta E Fagioli

One of the only things that I like about winter is it gives me a chance to make and enjoy hearty soups.

This is one of my favorites. I’m a sucker for tomatoes and pasta. This Italian classic found it’s highest calling in a recipe I found in Cook’s Illustrated.

Other than using a bit less water than called for (since I like this soup really thick), it is substantially unchanged.

A can of anchovies is seldom used all at once. Place the unused ones in plastic wrap and a plastic bag and place in the freezer.

Also, parmesan rinds can often be found in grocery stores now (or ask the cheese seller). Get a container of them, use what you need, wrap the rest in plastic and a plastic bag and save in the freezer for use as you need it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 TBSP olive oil (if using panchetta–if using bacon omit this)
  • 4-5 slices panchetta or bacon
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, micro-planed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomato
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind
  • 2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 c water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c orzo or other small pasta
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
  • grated Parmesan for topping

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Mince the panchetta or bacon and fry up about half way. If there is more than 2 tbsp of oil, pour off.
  2. Add the onions and celery and cook for 5-7 minutes or until softened.
  3. Add the garlic, oregano, pepper flakes and anchovies, stir for a minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, rind, and beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. (You can stop here, if you are like me and love to cook in the morning. Turn it off and let it set until dinner time)
  7. Bring back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the parsley, stir in.
  9. Serve it up. Top with fresh grated Parmesan.

Serves: 4

Extravagant? Drizzle some fine olive oil over the bowl!

Fajitas, Fajitahs, Oh Bless Me!

To tell you the truth, I don’t know which I like better, Chicken Fajitas or Beef. I guess it depends on which day you ask me. (Technically fajitas are made with skirt steak but I use anything!)

In any case, I love them. They are probably my favorite of all Mexican dishes, and I do love Mexican dishes!

They are fairly simple to make. But I would caution you on this:

You can make them real simple by using store-bought taco seasoning and bottled salsa. But you will miss an awful lot of the true joy of this dish. So just look up my recipes for seasoning and salsa and make them up the morning of.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb chicken (breast) or sirloin cut in nice strips (Note: pork would be fine as would be shrimp)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 tbsp seasoning mix
  • 1 bell pepper any color cut in strips
  • 1 large onion cut in long narrow wedges
  • 7-8 flour tortillas
  • juice of 1 lime
  • toppings (sour cream, salsa, cheese of any type you like, black olives, avocado slices)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil in a saute pan, when hot add the meat, keeping it as separate as possible. Add the seasonings and stir, until the meat is nicely coated. Cook fast and hot until done. (more crucial for the chicken than the beef obviously)
  2. When it’s done, remove to a dish and cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
  3. Place the pepper and onions in the pan, and saute hot and fast, until tender crisp. (They will pick up the seasonings from the pan.)
  4. While the meat and veggies are cooking, prepare the tortillas. If using electric heat, turn on a large burner on high, until hot. With tongs, place a tortilla on the burner, and wait until it starts to smoke, flip and do the other side. Place in foil. Do all and then place in oven set at 200° to keep warm. (If you use gas, I guess a griddle would work? The charred points on the tortillas really add to the flavor of the dish I find)
  5. When everything is cooked, set all the toppings on the table, squeeze a good 2 tbsp of lime juice over the meat, and get ready to feast!

Serves: 3

Giddy-Up Spicy Ranch Dressing

  • A recipe that is the basis for many off-shoots is a great recipe.

I’m not sure if this is that recipe, but I find that I can use it in multiple ways.

Why buy that bottled junk with too much salt and chemicals you have never heard of?

Make your own wonderful dressing in a few minutes, and you will forever make your own.

You can easily swap out the “spicy” elements for a plain ranch, or add other cheeses for particular needs. This serves as a dressing for a green salad, a pasta salad, or as a dip for chicken wings or tenders or the always wonderful raw veggie plate.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 c mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c buttermilk  or milk with 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne or chopotle
  • 1 jalapeño, finely minced

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Mix everything together with a whisk except the buttermilk. Add it slowly as you whisk, stopping when you get the right consistency.  Place in fridge for a good two hours before using to blend the flavors.

Note: If you want no spice eliminate the jalapeño and cayenne. Add 1/3 c of parmesan for parmesan ranch. Add 2-3 oz of crumbled blue cheese for a blue cheese ranch. Add a tbsp of lemon juice for a pasta salad.

This dressing should hold up for a week in the fridge. You can half this recipe easily if you need to.

Be A Kid Again Jello Salad

Don’t start. I know this is so grade school, so 50’s. But it holds fond memories for me. It was the salad my mother made for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and it subs as dessert. And those holidays were the best when I was a kid.

What is more to the point, is that it is utterly adaptable to whatever fruit or nuts you like.

Explore the jello aisle, pick your poison, and then hop over to fruits and go wild. Mix and match as the holiday dictates or the tummy yearns for.

This is kid-friendly, and you know you sophisticated types sneak it when nobody is looking. So indulge!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 3 oz boxes of jello of your choice
  • 1 pt. vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup fruit of your choice
  • 1/2 c nuts of your choice
  • 1 c miniature marshmallows

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Dissolve the jello in 2 cups of boiling water.
  2. Add the ice cream and melt, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Place in fridge for about 45 minutes. Take out and stir (it wants to separate)
  4. Continue to do this until it starts to thicken.
  5. Add the rest of your ingredients.
  6. Stir. Place in a mold if you desire. ( I never bother)
  7. Place in fridge until set.

Serves: 10

Possible choices:

  • lime jello, pineapple, walnuts
  • cherry jello, cherries, almonds
  • orange jello, mandarin oranges, pecans
  • peach jello, peaches, walnuts
  • tropical jello, mangos or papaya, macadamia nuts
  • clear jello, strawberries and blueberries, walnuts
  • raspberry jello, raspberries, almonds

 

Holiday Spice Bread

We tend to make sweet breads around holidays.

But if you are like me, and love sweet things in the morning, then you might consider developing a group of sweet bread recipes to alternate throughout the year.

This one is from Rachel Weyerman at JustaPinch, and I have only tickled it a tiny bit. The main recipe is hers, and it’s delicious.

Sweet breads are fast to put together, quick to bake and satisfy just about everyone.

So make sure you have this one in your repertoire. You will not be disappointed in this offering.

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2  tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c oil
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1 small sweet potato, cooked, and peeled.
  • 1/2 c cranberries or more  (or virtually any other dried fruit or fresh you wish–I used dried mango)
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 bananas very ripe
  • 2/3 c nuts of your choice, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Throw the sweet potato in the microwave the evening before and cook.
  2. Put all the dry ingredients together (through the baking soda) and whisk together
  3. In a larger bowl, mash the potato and the bananas until they are fairly mixed. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until it seems homogenous.
  4. Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing with a spatula, until incorporated.
  5. Grease a loaf pan (I use shortening), and pour in the batter. Rachel recommends flouring the pan, but I forgot, and the bread fell out when I turned it out after baking. So I think you can probably skip that.
  6. Place in a pre-heated 350° oven for about 45 minutes. Mine was a little gooey in the center,  and so I just turned off the oven and let it stay there for about 20 minutes. It was fine.
  7. Cool for about 30 minutes and then turn out for further cooling.

Serves: Oh please, after you have eaten half of it, save some for others!

 

 

South of the Border Scrambled Eggs (Migas)

I’m not a serious breakfast person.

I tend to like donuts. Bad stuff.

So when I eat “breakfast” it’s usually more like at noon.

And this is a Mexican dish that is well, a basic in Mexico.  It is called Migas.

The basics are tortillas and onions and eggs.

The rest is whatever makes you tick, tock. I’ll give you a list of add ons.

Only two requirements: use real tortillas (NO bought chips) and do try a bit of heat, since it ain’t Mexican if it doesn’t have a chile in it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 corn tortillas, torn up into pieces
  • 1/4 c oil (canola is my favorite)
  • 1 Serrano chili, minced (or jalapeño or any that you like, seeded or not)
  • 1/3 c diced onions (can use spring onions or regular)
  • 2 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat up the oil, and then add the tortilla chips. Stirring frequently, cook until they have crisped up. Remove and pour off most of the oil.
  2. Add the onions and chile to the pan and saute until softened. Add the eggs and stir until cooked, adding the tortilla pieces back in at the end, and letting it sit for a couple of minutes to soften them a bit.

That’s it.

You can add: diced tomato, sweet pepper, cheese of any sort, mushrooms. You get the idea. You can serve with salsa or refried beans or nothing at all. It can be eaten as a real breakfast or as a lovely brunch. Think of it as an omelet and have fun. You can omit the chile if you wish, but gosh, why would you not want to start the day off with a bang? (The whole thing is  sometimes folded up in a warmed flour tortilla)

Serves: 1

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

This is one of my favorite chicken recipes.

It’s easy to make, and is great comfort food.

This dish is enhanced the higher quality paprika you use, so splurge a bit and save excess more expensive paprika in the freezer to keep it fresh.

The recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking. There are hundreds of recipes for this of course, since it’s a national dish and is therefore peasant food, but I’ve never found one I like more. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 lbs of chicken pieces (about 8 I would say) I use thighs and legs since they cook evenly
  • 2 tbsp oil or butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 c onions, slices fairly thinly
  • 1/4 c good quality paprika
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 lg bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, micro-planed
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pat dry the chicken pieces well and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saute pan and add the chicken pieces in batches if necessary.
  3. Brown on both sides, then remove to a plate.
  4. Add the onions and saute until they pick up color and are softened.
  5. Add the paprika and flour and stir in and cook for about a minute.
  6. Add the garlic, stock, bay leaf and chicken and juices from the plate. Cook at a simmer,  covered until done about 25-30 minutes.
  7. Remove the chicken, and skim off any fat. Then bring to a boil and reduce until the sauce is very very thick, almost pasty.
  8. Remove from the heat, add the sour cream and lemon juice.
  9. Serve over noodles.

Serves: 4-6