Posts tagged ‘charred’

July 11, 2012

Capellini with Arrabbiata Sauce and Grilled Chicken Breast

I can’t bring myself to buy jarred pasta sauce when it takes less than 10 minutes to make it from scratch.  It just doesn’t compare to the bright flavors of freshly made pasta sauce – and it’s not just better tasting it also better for you.

The simplest, and most authentic marinara is a quick sauce, seasoned only with onion, garlic, pepper, and, if you like, basil or oregano. The pieces of tomato are left chunky, and the texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose.  It’s that easy. Toss with your favorite pasta and you’re weeknight meal is a quick trip to Italy!  Once you have this base, with just a few adjustments, you can make a range of sauces from a few simple ingredients.

Today we’re making Capellini with arrabiata sauce.  This dish’s name – arrabbiata – comes from the Italian word for “angry” because of the spicy tomato and red pepper.  The sweet tomatoes balance the heat from the peppers and will awaken any palate.  The salty, charred flavor from the grilled chicken offsets the heat and adds an element of texture to this luscious bowl of pasta.  No need for take out tonight, make a large bowl of pasta for your family and I promise you’ll go to bed with full bellies and a full wallet. 

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast
  • 1 packet Capellini pasta (angel hair)
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 8 oz.
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 16 oz.
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. red-hot chili pepper (use more or less depending on the level of heat desired)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Chicken seasoning

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Method

  1. Place large pot of water on stove to boil for the pasta.  Once it boils lower it to a simmer until everything else is ready.  The pasta only takes 4 minutes to cook so it’s the last thing you want to do, but you want to have the water ready to go.
  2. Place skillet on medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Saute onion, garlic, salt and pepper for about 5 minutes.  You want the onions to turn opaque; you don’t want them to brown.
  4. Add diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir in Italian seasoning and red-hot chili peppers and return to a low simmer.
  5. Carefully spoon out about half the mixture and place it in a food processor.  You can also use a blender but be careful and hold the lid down tightly since the heat will want to push it up.
  6. Blend half the sauce and add it back into the skillet.  This will add richness to the sauce while still keeping some texture.
  7. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano and lower heat to low.  Now it’s chicken time!
  8. Turn grill on medium~high (350 degrees)
  9. Mix chicken spices in a small bowl and sprinkle on top and bottom of chicken breast
  10. Spray hot grill with PAM and place chicken over direct heat.
  11. Close lid and cook for approx. 6 minutes, then flip and cook another 6 minutes with the lid closed.  Chicken’s done at 165 deg. There is no rare or med rare for chicken. You have to cook it done every time! Try not to prick the breast much, it will make the juices run out and cause it to be dry.
  12. Remove chicken from grill and let it rest while you cook the pasta.  Don’t slice immediately; wait until you’re ready to serve.
  13. Return water to a boil, salt water (1 tbsp. salt) and add pasta.
  14. Stir well and let boil for 4 minutes.  Start the 4 minutes as soon as you drop in the pasta.
  15. While pasta cooks, add parsley and basil to the sauce.
  16. Drain well and reserve a cup of pasta water to add to the sauce.  This thin pasta is very delicate and will turn to mush if you over cook it.
  17. Add drained pasta directly into sauce and stir.  Add some of the pasta water if needed; it will help loosen the sauce if it gets too thick.
  18. Fill a large bowl with a healthy serving of pasta and top with sliced chicken breast.

Diverti!

September 21, 2011

Simply Grilled Steak with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Want a new spin on your traditional steak and potatoes?  Try adding a little wasabi!  The buttery potatoes have a slow-rising, distinctive heat, which contrasts well with the juicy steak.  In the summertime, there’s nothing quite like as satisfying as the smell of a big juice steak grilling over a hot fire.  One of my favorite things in the perfectly charred crust, all the seasoning from the grill in one perfect bite.   The grill may just be the best thing that ever happened to a steak.

To make my life a little easier, I bought mixed baby potatoes so I could avoid both peeling and chopping.  I also like the look of the potatoes skins mashed in, it makes it feel more rustic and the skins contain many essential nutrients, so why throw that away?   On a side note, I had a bad experience with my disposal and potato skins, so I try to avoid peeling at all costs… you can probably guess  how that turned out.  The small potatoes have a rich buttery texture so you have to add less milk and butter to get them to the right consistency.

Open up a nice bottle of red wine, relax, and enjoy your $40 steak house dinner in the comfort of your own home for a quarter of the price.

Ingredients

  • 2 rib-eyes, about 2 inches thick, ours we’re BIG steaks, so if you get smaller ones you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.  Here’s a helpful link on grilling steaks.
  • 1 tsp. salt per steak
  • 1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper per steak
  • 2 lbs. baby potatoes, washed (if they are varying in size, cut the large ones so they are all about the same, this way they cook at the same rate)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. wasabi (this varies depending on the heat you want, add a little less at first and try it, you can always add more but you can’t take it away)
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Method

  • Remove steaks from fridge 30 minutes before cooking and season well with salt and pepper.  Rub the spices in so they don’t fall off on the grill.  Then put them aside and let them warm up to room temperature.
  • Fill a medium size pot half full and bring to a boil on the stove
  • Once the water is boiling, add a generous portion of salt (at least a tablespoon) and add the potatoes.
  • Leave potatoes on a light boil with the lid off for 15-20 minutes.  Check by sticking them with a knife, it is goes in without pressure they’re done.
  • While the potatoes boil, turn grill on high
  • When the grill is hot, place steaks on rack and cook on high (~500F) for 5 min per side to sear
  • Then turn grill down to medium (~350-400F) and cook an additional 7 min per side to cook the middle
  • If you use a meat thermometer (which you should feel no shame in using, especially if you are new to cooking meat) 130F in the middle is medium-rare, 140 is medium.  It’s only about 1-2 minutes difference on the grill!
  • Pull the meat off and let is rest for 5-10 minutes before serving, this allows the meat juices to redistribute.  If you cut into it immediately all the juice will run out and you’ll be left with dry steak.
  • While the meat rests, it’s mashing time!
  • Add cream, butter, salt and pepper (to taste) and mash.  Please please please, buy yourself a 4 dollar masher.  Please do not use an electric mixer, this beaks up the gluten in the potatoes and leaves you with tacky, sticky textured potatoes.
  • Slowly add the milk, add about ¼ – ½ a cup, more or less depending on the texture you’re looking for.  I don’t mash my potatoes until they are completely creamy, I like a little texture, so a few lumps are ok with me… plus the skin helps give it a rustic feel.
  • Add the wasabi at the end and mix with a spoon, add it slowly and taste as you go along to get the appropriate heat level for you and your guests.  I didn’t want to use the powdered wasabi I found in the grocery store (maybe one of you have tried it, and if so please let me know how it is), so I stopped by my local Japanese restaurant and asked them for a small side of wasabi.
  • Once you’re finished mashing, your meat has rested and you are ready to dig in.
  • Enjoy!

 

September 15, 2011

Grilled Shrimp & Romaine Salad

Brisket: 6 hours. Meatloaf: 45 mins.  Lasagna: 1 hour.  For some reason people are terrified of cooking fish, which is strange to me since it’s one of the easiest things to prepare and takes the least amount of time to cook.  Shrimp: 5 mins.  Salmon filet: 10 mins.  Ok, these are all approximates, but you get the idea.  Since it’s so quick, why don’t we face our fear of fish disasters and start conquering the deep-sea!  Very dramatic, I know.

This is one of those dishes that make you rethink your ordinary salad. Forget boring greens with stale croutons and cold radish.  This is not a starter; it’s the main dish.  Rosy pink shrimp slightly charred on the edges, and succulent and tender in the middle.  Bright cherry tomatoes that pop in your mouth, releasing their sweet juices. Golden brown garlic slices get lost in the tunnels of romaine salad and get lightly coated with tangy dressing.  I always mine all the garlic out and get left with just lettuce, so if you want to throw in a little extra I won’t judge you.

I make this salad on the grill and a skillet, that way the smaller ingredients don’t fall through the grill rack.  You can even put the pan directly on the grill to keep everything in one place.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can buy the ones you need to peel yourself but you’ll have to add some kitchen time if you do this).  I go with 1/3 to 1/2 lb. shrimp per person.
  • 1 handful small cherry tomatoes
  • 6 – 8 asparagus stalks, about 1/2 bunch
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 romaine hearts (depending on the size and how hungry you are), slice down the center but keep the ends on so they don’t fall apart on the grill

Vinaigrette (you probably won’t use it all, but you can store the rest in the fridge, feel free to double it, it wont go bad)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 spoonful’s of Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper

Method

  • Heat your grill to medium
  • Prepare the vinaigrette, whisk olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl
  • Heat skillet on medium, add a VERY little olive oil and add garlic, tomatoes and avocado.  I recommend using olive oil spray, or PAM, you don’t want the garlic to fry, rather they should brown in the pan, like a dry heat.  The spray helps the tomatoes and avocado brown, but you won’t need a lot.
  • Brush the shrimp and asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper and place on the hot grill
  • Turn shrimp and asparagus with tongs after 3 mins (the shrimp will begin to curl and turn pink)
  • While cooking the shrimp keep your eye on the garlic/tomatoes/avocados, turn them in the pan as needed.
  • Cook shrimp and asparagus for an additional 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.  Leave on the side while you assemble the rest of the salad.
  • Brush the halved romaine hearts with the vinaigrette and place on grill for 2 mins
  • Turn and cook an additional 2 mins until leaves begin to brown
  • Remove from heat and begin building your salad!
  • Place romaine and asparagus on plate, remove garlic, tomatoes and avocado from pan (they should be slightly golden) and lay over lettuce
  • Finally add the grilled shrimp and add a little more vinaigrette if needed
  • Enjoy!!!

You can substitute the shrimp for chicken, tofu or just leave it off all together.  The slightly singed lettuce leaves, sweet shrimp, and warm avocado turn this ordinary salad into a lavish dinner.

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