Shrimp Frau Diavolo

Doesn’t that look delicious?  I admit, it hasn’t been painstakingly food-styled into a perfectly organized and lovingly garnished dish, but sometimes I think you just need to sit down to a warm and gloriously tangled mess of pasta, shrimp, trinity.  This came about as the result of a minor kitchen oversight – we bought a pound of shrimp last weekend planning to make surf and turf on the grill and then promptly forgot about them.  So when lunch rolled around on Tuesday afternoon and I saw them hanging out in the fridge it was a cook ’em or lose ’em moment.

I don’t usually have tons of spare time on weekdays for lunch, so I was looking for something I could make pretty quickly.  It only took me about 30 minutes to whip this up, and a good part of that was bringing my pasta water up to the boil.  This is one of those recipes where you can usually find everything you need in your fridge or pantry – or at least some semblance of everything you need.  I didn’t have diced tomatoes – or any tomatoes – so I used a can of whole tomatoes and diced them myself.  I added a green bell pepper I needed to use, and I pretty much just pulled out the bottle of white moscato from the fridge for the “dry white wine” because I wasn’t really prepared to open a more appropriate bottle at 1:30 in the afternoon.

So the moral of this story is this:  use what you have, make up what you don’t, and enjoy the results.  Cheers!

 

Shrimp Frau Diavolo

via Giada De Laurentiis

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed

1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons

1 medium onion, sliced

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.

Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.

Book Themed Baby Shower: Spinach & Pancetta Quiche/Green Eggs and Ham

green eggs and ham

green eggs and ham

This was a divine quiche.  Divine, I tell you.  I took a pretty standard Quiche Lorraine recipe and tweaked it just a bit to suit my “green eggs and ham” idea, and it was definitely one of the stars of the baby shower.  There was but one tiny slice left, and the expectant Mama requested the leftovers, so I didn’t get to bring a crumb of it home with me.  Sigh.  But not to worry, I’m planning a repeat of it this very weekend. 

 

Spinach and Pancetta Quiche

Adapted from SmittenKitchen

Crust: (see note)*

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
1 egg

Filling:

2 cups spinach (I used a whole bag of Publix baby spinach)
3/4 cup diced shallot (2-4 depending on the size)
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups diced pancetta (about ½ pound, or a little more.)
3/4 cup grated cheese**

Heat a large sauté pan over med heat. Cook pancetta until just barely starting to brown and some of the fat has rendered, then add the onions and cook over low heat until the pancetta is nicely browned and shallots are caramelized, occasionally stirring, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or fingers until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix it until a dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate and press to remove any air bubbles. Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the quiche shell chills, mix the heavy cream and sour cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining three eggs. Add a pinch each nutmeg, salt and pepper and combine to form a batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the quiche shell from the refrigerator and spread the pancetta and shallot mixture evenly over the base. Spread spinach over this,then sprinkle evenly with cheese. Pour in the batter and place the quiche in the oven.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* If you have a favorite pie crust recipe, then feel free to use it.  Or a frozen one would be just as good and save some time. 

**I used a mixture of cheddar and another mild hard cheese (BellaVitano Espresso from Publix) that I had laying around, but you can use gruyere, swiss, or anything else you like and it would be just as good. So I’ll leave it up to you. 

 

Chicken Meatballs

meatballs-3

I know I’ve been AWOL for a week or so, but I have a really good excuse.  See, I had to make these meatballs.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had to cater a baby shower…and these were on the menu. So technically that is true.  As soon as I get my pictures in order I will be posting about the shower, including some other yummy-scrumptious recipes.  But seeing as how I made these twice in three days (they are that good), I figured it was my duty to share them first.  But I feel I should warn you that they are made with ground chicken.

Gasp.  I know, right.

I’ll be honest: I never thought I’d ever buy ground poultry.  I mean, I make fun of folks who eat turkey burgers, because, really, what’s the point of eating a burger (B is for beef, people.  Or possible buffalo. Or bison.  Not turkey.) otherwise?  No judgements here – eat what you want – but for me personally, I like my ground meat red, and previously on the hoof.   So, when I was hunting for a killer meatball recipe, no one was more surprised than me that I chose one with ground chicken.  They also have pancetta, which helped make them more legit – let’s be honest, I’d eat a tire if you put pancetta on it.  And the recipe described them as tasting “cheesy”, even though there is not a single shred of cheese in them.   By that point in my research I was fully on board, and trying to think of which Publix I can go to where no one I know will see me buying ground chicken.

yes, I know that's bacon and not pancetta, but I used it all up in another recipe and had to use it's only slightly less awesome relative in my second batch.

yes, I know that’s bacon and not pancetta, but I used it all up in another recipe and had to use it’s only slightly less awesome relative in my second batch.

meatballs-2

The first batch I made for the shower I didn’t photograph, so you’re seeing my second batch which I made for dinner last night – much to Jacob’s delight.  He claimed they were awesome, and that’s a high compliment for someone who usually just says “Meh.  It’s OK.  I’d eat it again.”  Seriously.  He’s like the least excited eater ever.  Also, almost everyone who attended the shower requested the recipe, so I feel pretty good declaring them the Best Meatballs Ever.  They only take about 20 minutes to put together, and then another 15-20 to bake, depending on how large you make them, so it’s not a huge time investment, and are you really still here?  Why aren’t you out at a grocery store where no one knows you buying ground chicken (unless you routinely use ground poultry, in which case feel free to shop at your usual place).  They really are good people.  They don’t taste very chicken-y to me, more a general savory flavor, and they are very tender and moist.  I made the ones for the shower small, around 25 of them baked for 16 minutes, and the ones for our dinner were larger, only 12 and baked for 22 minutes.  So you can tweak them to suit your needs, but either way, you’ll be glad you tried them.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Gourmet via SmittenKitchen

Serves 4 as a main course, or more as appetizers

3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped (you can swap in Canadian Bacon if you can’t find pancetta)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about four minutes.

Cook pancetta, onion, and garlic in one tablespoon oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. (Alternately, as in “I thought of this after the fact”, I’d bet you could render the pancetta for a couple minutes and cook the onions and garlic in that fat, rather than olive oil.) Cool slightly.

Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in another 4-sided sheet pan

Stir together remaining tablespoons of tomato paste and oil and brush over meatballs (I had to use a whisk to get it to mix) , then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes.

Ding Dong Eight Alarm Chili

Chili-1

Let’s just start off with a disclaimer:  This is not eight-alarm chili.  At least not the way I made it.  In all fairness, it would have been had I been able to find anything I was shopping for at the grocery store last week.  Let me just say, Publix, that I’m really disappointed in you.  You’ve never let me down like this before.   But I’m over it, because it was still delicious.

I found this recipe on Epicurious a while back (like 2 years, actually).  It was originally published in Gourmet magazine back in 2003, and it’s supposed to be the famous chili from the Cosby show (I dunno.  I didn’t watch the Cosby show, but I hear the chili was like a big deal or something).  I just thought it looked like a pretty good recipe so I saved it, and when I had my little impromptu dinner party last weekend, it seemed like a good time to dig it out.  You can never go wrong with a (mostly) one pot meal that you make a day ahead for a dinner party.  It gives you plenty of time on the day of to do any last minute house-cleaning, dog de-hairing (that’s the technical term for the removal of dog hair from miscellaneous surfaces and/or seating areas), or decorating.   I’ll admit it.  I did all three of those things.

Back to the chili.  Please, please, please don’t buy packaged stew meat for this.  They just like to trim off any random leftover bits from whatever they’ve been working with in the meat department and you never know what you’re getting in there.  Buy a shoulder or a chuck roast and cut it yourself.  It only takes a few extra minutes, and you can be sure of the cut of meat you’re getting.  Also, since you’re cutting it yourself, you can make sure that your pieces are all similar size for even cooking.  Once you’ve done that, you brown your meat – get a good sear since that is where all the flavor comes from.  Set your meat aside and throw some onions and garlic in there, then some spices, then your sauce (we’ll talk about the sauce in a moment), and that’s it.  You cook it down for a while, let it cool, and stick it in the fridge.  Let it sit around for a day or two, then heat it back up and voila’,  chili.  Yummy goodness chili.

Now the reason mine didn’t turn out super spicy is because I couldn’t find the right sorts of peppers.  All my Publix had was jalapenos and “long hot peppers”.  I’m not sure what a long hot pepper was supposed to be, but I tasted it and I’m pretty sure it was just a funny shaped bell pepper.   I wasn’t going to inflict habaneros on dinner guests, so I just used the jalapenos and then added some extra chili powder and aleppo pepper.  It was faintly spicy, but not robustly so, so if you like a good scorching chili, you need to make sure you get peppers with some heat.  Also: the sauce.  When you puree your peppers, etc, the recipe has you add a half cup of cilantro.  When I took the top off my food processor I was immediately hit with the smell of cilantro.  Jacob actually said that I had ruined the chili, because the smell was so strong, and I was a little worried myself that it would be overpowering, but don’t fear.  Add the cilantro!  Once you cook it for a couple of hours, it disappears into the background, leaving just a slight herbal note that you really need to balance out the other heavy flavors.

Chili-2

This made a great chili that wasn’t overly difficult to make, and turned out to be a good, hearty, warming meal.  If only I had winter weather deserving of such a dish…alas, you can’t have everything.

Oh! Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope yours is going splendidly!

Ding Doing Eight Alarm Chili

2 oz dried ancho chiles (4 large), stemmed and seeded*

6 large garlic cloves, 3 of them finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (not pure chile)

4 lb well-marbled beef brisket or boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice

1/4 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 lb white onions, chopped (4 cups)

1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled

1 to 4 fresh serrano or other small green chiles, finely chopped, including seeds (1 is fine for most tastes; 4 is the eight-alarm version)

1 (12-oz) bottle beer (not dark)

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (optional; 30 oz), rinsed if canned

Soak ancho chiles in hot water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain well.

While chiles soak, mince 1 whole garlic clove and mash to a paste with 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and 1/2 tablespoon chili powder. Pat beef dry and toss with spice mixture in a large bowl until coated.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown beef in 3 or 4 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch (lower heat as needed; spice mixture burns easily). Transfer beef as browned to another bowl. (Do not clean pot.)

Purée anchos in a blender along with tomatoes (including juice), chipotles in adobo, cilantro, remaining 2 whole garlic cloves, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt until smooth.  Add enough oil to fat in pot to total 3 tablespoons, then cook onions and chopped garlic over moderate heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits from beef, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add oregano, remaining tablespoon cumin, and remaining tablespoon chili powder and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chile purée and 1 chopped serrano and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes.

Stir in beer, water, and beef along with any juices accumulated in bowl and gently simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and checking often to make sure chili is not scorching, 2 hours.

Taste sauce, then add more serrano if desired and continue to simmer, partially covered, until beef is very tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 hours more. (If chili becomes very thick before meat is tender, thin with water as needed.)  Coarsely shred meat (still in pot) with 2 forks and cool chili completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, 1 to 2 days to allow flavors to develop.

Reheat over low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 30 minutes. Add beans (if using) and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes

* I think it’s safe to say that if you can’t find dried anchos, or any of these specific peppers, the world will not end and the chili gods won’t rain hellfire down on you.  Just use whatever chilies you like, or whatever suits your taste heat-wise.

Optimistic Foliage

Well readers, I finally have my garden down on paper.  I’ve got a neat little diagram with all my notes about sowing dates, planting dates, last frosts, first frosts, proper spacing, light requirements, etc. scribbled in the margins.  Actually it’s not “neat” at all, it’s quite messy, but I feel OK about that seeing as how it’s a garden and they’re supposed to be inherently messy anyway, aren’t they?  My only problem now is that it’s still to early to do anything…too early to plant, and too early to channel my burst of enthusiasm into tangible results.  I took the dog out for his romp around the yard, and as my productivity-induced high disappated in the face of a winter brown landscape, I saw this:

Lovely Eucalyptus

Lovely Eucalyptus

Lovely isn’t it?   From that view you’d never know it wasn’t spring or summer time.  Amazing how something so simple as brightly-hued foliage can lift my spirits.   Enjoy!

Blue Corn Grits

bluegrits-1

I’ll be honest.  I bought these because they’re blue.  Come on people.  Blue grits? Heirloom blue grits?  How could l not purchase them?  I first heard about Anson Mills in some culinary publication or other and, being a connoisseur of grits, I had to check it out.  Their story is pretty cool actually – you can read all about it here – but the short version is that they’ve rediscovered and are now growing and preserving several heirloom grains, including several varieties of corn and rice.  These blue grits are actually Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits, and they are excellent.  

When I say I’m a connoisseur of grits, you must understand; I was born and raised in the Deep South to southern parents, grandparents, etc.  And southerners take grits seriously.  Lately grits have been having something of a rennaissance moment – thank you Hugh Acheson and the Lee Bros – and have been showing up in all manner of fine restaurants and gourmet food stores, but they’ve been a staple in my house since before I can remember.  I can eat grits for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; with shrimp or salmon croquettes; made into grits cakes; or as a side dish at any given meal.  I’ve been getting my grits (stone ground) from a place called the Redneck Gourmet in Newnan, Ga.  You can’t purchase them from their website (deepest apologies to all of you who can’t obtain them, because they’re amazing and you’re really missing out), but if you ask they’ll sell them to you in the restaurant.  The Redneck is kind of famous in my part of Georgia – they’re huge Georgia Bulldogs fans there so they really represent during football season – but they also have some extremely good food.  If you’re in Newnan on a Friday, you should really stop by, because that’s Dawg day, and they have some of the best hotdogs you’ll find – I recommend the RG Dawg: chili, cheese, onions, and slaw.  It’s crazy good.

But I digress.  The grits.  I remain a loyal customer of the Redneck, and keep their grits on hand – they’re coarsly stone ground, so they cook up really large and tender – but I wanted to try the ones from Anson Mill to see if they really were as good as I’d heard.   Well, sleep soundly tonight, dear reader, because they are.  I have to mail order them, and their recipes are a little fussy, in my opinion, but they do have a great deep corn flavor, and the texture is spot on.  You want grits to be smooth and tender, but still with a little chew, and these are just perfect.  They do take a little longer to cook, and they recommend soaking them overnight, which takes more planning than I’m sometimes prepared for, but they are totally worth it.  And if you’re not from around here, and don’t eat grits very often, or, heaven forbid, have only had the instant kind, these are the ones you should try.  These are what instant grits want to be when they grow up. 

Now I’m giving you the recipe provided by Anson Mills – they actually have a disclaimer that says “not all recipes will work with our products, and our products won’t work with all recipes” – and this is true to some extent.  It really does cut down the cooking time if you soak them the night before, or at least a couple of hours, but in my experience letting it come to a boil and then simmering doesn’t adversely affect them, and I have never gone through all the rigamarole of adding water slowly, etc.  This isn’t risotto people, it’s grits, and like the people of the south, grits tend to be made of pretty sturdy stuff.  Just cover with water, simmer, add S&P, chives, cheese, and a pat of butter, and enjoy.

 

Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits

6 ounces (1 cup) Grits
 Salt and Pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

 Place the grits in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (preferably a Windsor saucepan) and cover them with 2½ cups water. Stir once. Allow the grits to settle a full minute, tilt the pan, and skim off and discard the chaff and hulls with a fine tea strainer. Cover and let the grits soak overnight at room temperature. If you are not soaking the grits, proceed directly to the next step.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pan. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and keep hot. Every 10 minutes or so, uncover the grits and stir them; each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in a small amount of the hot water, adding about 1½ cups water or more in 4 or 5 additions. Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon, about 50 minutes if the grits were soaked or about 90 minutes if they weren’t. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time. To finish, stir in the butter with vigorous strokes. Add more salt, if desired, and the pepper.

 

Glazed Pork Ribs

These ribs are Good.  And yes, I meant to capitalize that.  Now, I had my wisdom teeth out about a week ago, so it could be that I’m just so excited to be eating something other than soup or Talenti Gelato (although, let’s be honest, no one gets tired of that stuff), that I’m exaggerating, but I really don’t think so.  Now I’m well aware that few things compare to ribs cooked for hours on the grill – all tender and slightly smoky, but these are the next best thing.  They do take a medium amount of work; I had them on the table in about 4 hours, but 3/4 of that was cooking time, and they are well worth the effort.  I took the recipe from the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and it was really easy to follow.  Actually, although I’ve been getting the magazine for over a year and I have probably a hundred recipes bookmarked with sticky notes, this is the first one I’ve made.  I was a little intimidated by it at first since it came from the “Best New Restaurants” article, and the first thing I think when I see that is “well, I’ll never get that out of my kitchen”, but really, it’s very do-able.

Basically, you’re sandwiching two racks of ribs around a sliced lemon and a couple sprigs of rosemary, wrapping all that up in parchment and foil, and baking it in the oven.  And let me tell you, the flavors you get out of it will blow your mind. In fact, when you unwrap them, you probably shouldn’t taste them, because you might end up “tasting” a little too much and then not have any room for what comes next.  So now they’re all tender and smelling deliciously lemony and rosemary-y, but since you’ve pretty much just been steaming them in their own juices, they’re a little lacking in the “crispy and caramelized” department.  So you slice them up and broil them to give them a little color. I did make one change here and I recommend that you do the same – the recipe has you baste them with the glaze after broiling, but I think you should do it before.  I had to do two batches under the broiler and on the first one, I put them in while I was making the glaze (super easy – pork juice in saucepan with seasonings + thickener = done) and brushed it on after.  On the second batch I got lazy and decided to glaze them first and then broil them and I much preferred that.  The flavors really mellowed out and were more of an accent to the pork rather than overwhelming it.  And you can always baste them again lightly when they come out if you find them lacking.  Oh, and if you’re industrious enough to follow the link to the original recipe, you’ll notice that they’re actually called “Glazed Pork Ribs with Shichimi Togarashi”, and you may be all like “Hey didn’t you leave out a main ingredient?  I mean it’s in the title.”  I couldn’t find shichimi togarashi (OK, I won’t lie, I really didn’t even look), so I used a little Aleppo Pepper instead for a little heat.  No worries.

Glazed Pork Ribs

2 racks St. Louis–style pork ribs (about 4 lb.)

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt plus more

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, very thinly sliced

2 sprigs rosemary plus 1 Tbsp. minced

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced, plus 1 tsp. finely grated

2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions

Shichimi togarashi*

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange a double layer of foil on a rimmed baking sheet so foil hangs over sides. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on foil. Season ribs all over with 1 1/2 Tbsp. salt and pepper.  Place 1 rack of ribs, bone side up, on parchment. Arrange sliced lemon, rosemary sprigs, and sliced garlic over. Lay remaining rack over, bone side down, creating a pocket between the racks. (The seasonings in the center will infuse the meat as it bakes.)

Cover ribs with another sheet of parchment; crimp edges to seal. (The parchment seals in flavor and prevents the acid of the lemons from reacting with the foil.) Wrap ribs tightly with foil to form a tight seal (use extra foil, if necessary, to completely enclose ribs, and crimp edges together to tightly seal).  Bake ribs for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature, still sealed in foil, for 1 hour. Do not open; ribs will continue to cook and become tender. I know this part is hard, because you just want to take one little peek, but don’t.  You’ll let all yummy goodness out.

Carefully open foil. Transfer ribs to a platter or another baking sheet; discard lemon slices and rosemary sprigs. Pour pork juices into a measuring cup. Add water if needed to measure a scant 1 cup. DO AHEAD: Ribs can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap in foil and chill. Cover and chill juices separately.

Bring reserved pork juices, minced rosemary, grated garlic, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and lemon zest to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl for slurry. Whisk slurry into juices to thicken (the glaze should just coat the back of a spoon). Season glaze with salt and pepper and more lemon juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Glaze can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Gently rewarm before using.

Preheat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut between bones to separate ribs. Transfer ribs to prepared baking sheet and broil**, turning occasionally, until beginning to brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with warm glaze. Sprinkle with scallions and shichimi togarashi.

*Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese red-pepper seasoning mix, and can be found at Japanese markets and in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets. I used Aleppo Pepper instead, but you can get creative and use whatever you like. Or you can be a good recipe follower and hunt you up some Shichimi Togarashi just like it says.

**As noted above, I glazed first and then broiled, and much preferred the results.  I just brushed them again very lightly when they came out and found that to be perfect.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

If you’re going to eat vegetarian, Indian food is the way to go.  This dish is packed with so much flavor that you don’t even notice that it’s meatless.  I love cauliflower (although that wasn’t always the case), but if you’re on the fence about it, throw it in a skillet with some garam masala and you’ll make up your mind real quick.  Chickpeas too can be a little bland on their own, but in this case they’re perfect.  They’re just a little crunchy, even when cooked, so they balance out the tomatoes and cauliflower perfectly.  And there’s just something about indian spices – they make even the simplest vegetable seem exotic and interesting.  When I first started cooking on my own I never would have used so many strong spices in a single dish – I would have thought they’d all just run together and overpower my food.  Coriander and cumin and garam masala and chili powder and ginger- it sounds like a lot if you’re unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, but they all play off of and enhance each other so well that you end up with layers and layers of flavors that all contribute something unique to the dish.  It’s like when you hear an orchestra rehearsing before a performance – as they’re tuning up individually or running through they’re own parts it’s like a bunch of ally cats howling out back, but when they come together and play as group, each instrument and part highlights the others and then you have music.

I found this recipe on Pinterest – which is not at all surprising when you think about the amount of time I while away there.  It’s not too hard to make, but I did make a few changes.  The recipe calls for blanching the cauliflower in water before adding it to the curry to finish, but I roasted mine instead.  I love roasting vegetables – I like to think it brings out the best in them.  They get a little caramelized, the flavors deepen, and they have a little crunch.  Also, instead of plain chili powder, I used Aleppo pepper instead.  It’s awesome if you haven’t tried it (hot and the tiniest bit sweet) but really I just like to say it.  Aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper.  Try it.  You’ll like it, I promise. To eat I mean.

The only other thing I changed was to use chicken broth instead of water (and I’ll just cower behind my cutting board until the cacophony dies down).  Yes, I know it’s supposed to be vegetarian, but I’m really not one, so I added chicken broth for a little more depth.  You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I did, and enjoyed it too.  So there.

Anyway, the point is that this dish is really really good.  Even if you’re not a vegetarian.  Even if you prefer more mild seasonings in your food (and by that I mean bland.  Don’t eat bland food, it’s just not worth it).  If you’ve never tried a curry before, this is a good one to start with.  Aside from the garam masala (although even that you can find in many an ethnic Wal-mart aisle) most of the spices are familiar and easy to obtain, and if you really want to add some more substance to this (I found it to be a satisfying and filling meal, but I’m on a going-to-the-beach diet, so I may not be impartial) you could add some chicken if you really wanted to and it would probably be very good.  So go out and be adventurous. Enjoy!

Also, please admire my new bowls.  Aren’t they cool?  I really like them.

 

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

(Serves four to six)

1 whole cauliflower

2-4 tbsp olive oil

3 medium onions

4 cloves of garlic

½ tsp chopped fresh ginger – I used 1/4 tsp dried, since I forgot to buy fresh and it was fine.

2 tsp ground coriander

2 star aniseed

½ tsp ground chilli

4 curry leaves

2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp ground cumin

1 (14.5 oz) can of chopped tomatoes

1 (14.5 oz) can of chickpeas, drained

Fresh chopped parsley for serving.

 

Preheat oven to 400°.  Remove the stalks from the cauliflower and cut into large florets. Place in a large bowl and add a couple of tablespoons olive oil, just enough to barely coat the florets.  Salt and pepper a little and roast in oven for 12-15 minutes, until the cauliflower is browning a little and is just tender enough to pierce with a fork.  You may stir it around a few times while it’s roasting. When done, remove from oven and set aside.

While the cauliflower is cooking, cut the onions into small pieces. Peel the garlic and chop fine.

In a large pan, melt a little butter (I used about 2 tbsp) then add the onion, garlic and ginger if using fresh (if not, add the ginger with the other spices) and sauté until golden brown, several minutes.  Add the remaining spices and cook for a further five minutes.

Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and stir well. Then add the cooked cauliflower. Add 100mL of cold water* and bring to a simmer for five to 10 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked through.

I chopped a little parsley to top it with, which was not in the recipe, but I liked it.

 

*I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t tell you how much 100mL was to save my life.  I just filled my empty tomato can about 3/4 full and called it good.  Then I realized that my pyrex measuring cups have mL on them.  Oh well.

Manicotti

Manicotti is my husband’s favorite dish.  And that’s saying something for someone who is mostly indifferent to what he eats.  In fact, he judges every italian restaurant we visit based on the quality of their manicotti.  I’ve rarely seen him order anything else if it is on the menu, and I know I have a captive audience if I make it at home.  This recipe happens to be pretty good, and I will definitely be making it again with just a few changes.  You can see I didn’t use the authentic manicotti pasta – the long thin tubes that are typical.  Not that I have anything against them, they’re just really hard to fill.  I used the jumbo shells because I can just spoon the filling into them instead of having to try to pipe it into the tubes without splitting them open.  Also, the recipe I used (from Saveur.com) called for a whole teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg, which we found to be a little much.  Actually, it was almost overpowering when we first tasted it a few minutes out of the oven, but I found that when I ate the leftovers the next day it had settled down into something a little more palatable, but I would still decrease the amount the 1/2 – 3/4 tsp next time.

While the dish as a whole was a success, the real star of the show was the tomato sauce.  Again, I got my recipe from Saveur, but what made it so awesome was the tomatoes.  I had canned some of my crop from last summer, and if I can help it I will never buy generic ones again.  It was like opening up a can of summer when I popped the lid.  This was by far the best marinara sauce I have ever made, and while it was fairly simple, with just a few key seasonings, the tomatoes really shone through.  They were so fresh and bright, the most vibrant flavor I’ve had since we had fresh produce last year.   Actually, my “uninterested in food” husband remarked that the sauce had a “rustic” taste – which made my day since that was exactly what I was going for.  The sauce cooks up in less than half an hour, and would be easily adaptable to almost anything that called for marinara – it would be perfect over a simple bowl of spaghetti, for example, or in a lasagna, or even on pizza.  Do what you will with it, but definitely make it soon.  With the freshest tomatoes you can find.

Angelo’s Marinara Sauce 

Makes about 3 cups

1  28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes – I used a quart jar of canned tomatoes from my pantry
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano
1⁄4 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. finely chopped
curly or flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper, to taste

Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly and its flavors come together, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

 

Baked Manicotti

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups Angelo’s Marinara Sauce
1  8-oz. box dried manicotti shells (about 14)
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups whole-milk ricotta
1 cup grated parmesan
7 tbsp. chopped curly or flat-leaf parsley
1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten

Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with 1 tbsp. butter and spread 1⁄2 cup of the marinara sauce across the bottom of the pan. Set aside. Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the manicotti and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain manicotti and rinse under cold water; set aside.

Heat oven to 450°. Heat remaining butter in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta, 1⁄2 cup parmesan, 5 tbsp. chopped parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and eggs and stir to combine.

Spoon some of the filling into both openings of each manicotti shell. (Alternatively, transfer the ricotta mixture to a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, snip off a bottom corner of the bag, and pipe filling into pasta.) Repeat with remaining manicotti shells. Transfer stuffed manicotti to prepared baking dish, making 2 rows. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

SERVES 6

Pasta with Mushrooms

I know, I know.  I waxed poetic about my new year’s resolution, and then I left you hanging for like a week and a half. Well I’m just going to pass the blame along to my husband who, for the third time this year no less, has brought home a cold and insisted on sharing it with me.  So I have been moping around, using sick days, and cooking nothing more complicated than tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Now that I am on the mend (really I’m fine, I’m just trying to milk this pitiful invalid thing for all it’s worth) however, I’ve had to catch up with all of that stuff I’ve been avoiding – like two weeks worth of laundry, and cleaning my bathroom, and catching up all those Nanny reruns I’ve been recording off of Nick at Nite (does anyone but me still watch that?? I’ll be honest, I can’t stop.)  And I really did want to share something wonderful with – something so good you would need to rush into the kitchen and make it immediately – but after all of that exhausting housework, I really just wanted to sit down with something simple and easy.  I raided my fridge of all the odds and ends that have been piling up: half a red onion, mushrooms left over from last weekend’s dinner party appetizer, and the tail end of a block of Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar.  I sauteed the onion and the mushrooms in just a very little olive oil and tossed that with half a box of spaghetti, hastily cooked to al dente, and I had dinner.  I added a little butter and grated the cheddar onto the pasta and let it all sort of melt together and it was a perfect weeknight supper.  I was a little worried that the cheese would try to run the whole show with such a strong flavor, but once it melted in, it just sort of coated the noodles in a suggestion of cheesiness and I just barely knew it was there – in a good way.

It was actually really good.  It certainly wasn’t mind blowing cuisine, but it was tasty, satisfying, homey food, and what more can a girl who’s just gotten back into the kitchen after a week on her deathbed ask for? OK, maybe not my deathbed, but if I see another cough drop I’m going on strike.