Posts tagged ‘family’

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!

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February 2, 2012

Huevos Con Chorizo (Eggs with Mexican Chorizo)

Breakfast for dinner!  We all love it.  Pancakes, eggs, waffles.  Whatever it is, it always seems to taste better at night.  One of my long time favorites, scrambled eggs.  It was recently improved upon with the addition of a truly heavenly ingredient… c-h-o-r-i-z-o.  Delicious!  Soft, fluffy, gentle pillows of eggs mixed with salty, spicy chorizo.  The two balance one another our perfectly.  The Mexican spices turn this from an ordinary morning meal to a delectable dinner ready for any night of the week.

I love making this on a stressful, long day (one of those when you think it’s Thursday and it’s only Tuesday).  It helps me relax and settle down after stressful meetings, non-stop emails, long calls and conversations that seem to go round and round in circles.  It warms me to the core, and yet doesn’t leave me feeling overly full.  It’s a little but healthy and a little not (all in moderation right?)

It honestly takes 10 mins to make, from removing the eggs from the fridge to sitting down and digging in.  So save this for a busy night and end your day with ease and happiness with huevos con chorizo.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs (3 per person)
  • 10 oz. Mexican pork chorizo
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (you can substitute milk if you want a lighter version)
  • 1 tsp. salt (remember, the chorizo also has a lot of salt)
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread (or whatever is your favorite)
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Thinly slice a jalapeño and then set aside for garnish
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, cream, salt, and pepper.
  3. Heat 2 medium skillets on the stove on medium heat.
  4. In one pan place the Chorizo (no oil or butter needed, just the meat).
  5. In a separate pan, melt the butter and olive oil on medium heat.
  6. When the butter melts, add eggs and lower heat to medium low.  Continue to mix with a wooden spoon before the eggs begin to set.  This will give you creamy, British style eggs, not traditional American scrambled eggs.  British style eggs are moist, fluffy and delicate.  In other words… perfect!
  7. While the eggs cook, gently stir the chorizo until cooked through.  Watch out, it might spatter so I recommend wearing an apron (I know, but after I ended up with dots of red grease all over my grey cashmere sweater I decided an Apron was much-needed).
  8. Stir the eggs continuously for about 5 minutes; it’s a similar method to making risotto.  You don’t want to let the eggs set like they do when you make American style eggs.  (If you turn the burner up too high the eggs will cook faster, but you will end up with very watery, soggy tasting eggs. So be sure to keep the temperature at medium-low).
  9. Remove the pan from the heat when you think they’re almost ready.  If you wait until they’re done you’ll be left with dry eggs.  Remove from heat when about 1 min from being ready.
  10. Add chorizo and stir gently.
  11. Toast a slice of your favorite bread.
  12. Place eggs and chorizo mixture over toast, top with a few slices of jalapeño and enjoy!

Some people like really soft scrambled eggs, other people like really dry scrambled eggs. Just keep gently stirring the eggs until they look like what you think the perfect consistency is.  But I STRONGLY urge you to try them this way; I promise you won’t go back.

January 22, 2012

Texas Chili

When I started dating my boyfriend, born and raised in El Paso Texas, there was one point in our relationship when it was almost over.  It was a chilly California evening, and I was preparing dinner while he opened the latest Netflix (which we have cancelled due to their price increase – bastards!).  Beer in hand, I started to serve up my warm chili, excited as ever to dig in.  This is when the evening turned… I had made the ultimate Texas blunder.  A mistake that could not be rectified… I had put BEANS, yes, I said it, BEANS in the chili!  WHAT?!?  I was then lectured on the fine making of chili and the short list of ingredients that qualify to be a part of this dish (beans was not one of them).  Needless to say, he ate it.

I learned my lesson, and have over the years perfected my bean-less chili with just the right amount of heat and spice.  I’ve experimented with many combinations of chiles, most of which were new to me after moving to Houston, and have been delighted by the variety of flavors I can unearth.  This chili develops a hidden smoky flavor, not like barbecue, but a delicate heat with warmth and spice from Anaheim chilies, cayenne and a touch of jalapeño.  The subtle sweet tomato and flavorful tender meat warms you from the inside out.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  • I yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño, finely diced with seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it hot)
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, finely diced with seeds removed
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 3 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chile and garlic
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Grated cheddar cheese (topping)
  • Sour cream (topping)
  • Onions (topping)

Method

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottom pan on the stove on medium with a tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  2. When the pan it hot, add in diced onion and cook on medium for 5 mins
  3. Add garlic, jalapeño and Anaheim chilies and cook additional 5 mins until onions are translucent
  4. Add in ground beef and brown meat, use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces and turn occasionally until brown on all sides.  The meat will continue to break up as you cook it but this helps it along.
  5. Brown meat, then add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, jalapeño powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir to coat the meat evenly
  6. Add cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper paste and water and stir
  7. Bring the chili to a low boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  8. Add sugar and flour and stir.  Cover again and simmer for another 30-40 minutes
  9. Taste and see if you need to add more salt/pepper.  Be light-handed, you can always add more, you can never take it out. (TIP: you happen to add too much salt, the one thing that might help save your dish is to add some sugar.  It helps to mellow it out and remove some of the acidic flavor)
  10. Top with cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream and serve in a large warm bowl

 

December 2, 2011

Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Onion Relish

The secret ingredient in this recipe comes from my mom.  Growing up she would make this for “family dinner” night and inevitably it would result in no leftovers and everyone asking for more.  Pork tenderloin was always one of my favorite dishes until I left home and had it in several restaurants and prepared by others not known as my mom.  Dry, bland, tough and disappointing.  It was never the same.

So, there was only one thing to do… I replicated my mom’s method and added a few of my own touches, and it’s now become a staple in my home.  Every time I make it the smells and flavors bring me back home to Sunday night dinners with my family.  It was our one night a week we would have a “proper” dinner, which my mom defined as, one, being in the “nice room”, two, using cloth napkins, and three, using double the plates (half of which didn’t go in the dishwasher).  I know because I was the designated plate dryer as my dad dunked them in scalding hot water and pass them to me with bright red fingers.  I dedicate this post to my family, and hope that it becomes a tradition in your home too.

Ingredients

  • Pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Topping

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot ground mustard (Colman’s British hot mustard powder)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of water or stock (if needed)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. fig jam

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on stove on medium/high.  Add mustard seeds and fennel and tilt the pan so the oil lightly covers the bottom of the pan and all the spices
  3. While the oil heats up, sprinkle the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub the spices into the meat so they don’t fall off when you drop it in the pan, it really helps flavor the tenderloin. This is your only time to season it, so if you don’t add it now it will be too late.
  4. Place tenderloin in hot pan and sear on all sides.  The mustard seeds and fennel will stick to the sides of the pork as it sears.
  5. Sear the pork, approximately 3 minutes per  side, and remove from pan.  Set in a roasting pan on a wire rack.
  6. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then spread a thick layer of Dijon mustard over the entire tenderloin.  You might need more than 3 tbsp. Just keep spreading it on so you cover the top.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes
  8. While the meat cooks it’s time to make the topping!
  9. In the same skillet used to brown the meat, add sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cook on medium/low until soft and translucent.  You may need to add a little more oil to avoid burning. 
  10. Add ground mustard, mustard seed, Worcestershire and a splash of water and continue to cook down for 10 minutes on low heat.
  11. You want to caramelize the onions, which is a slow and delicate process so be patient and let them cook down at a low heat.
  12. Add jam and butter and stir well.  Once it’s ready, cover leave on low heat.
  13. Check the pork with a meat thermometer.  Pork should reach 145°F
  14. If it’s under put it back in for 10-15 minutes and check again.  It depends on the thickness of the tenderloin, so it will vary every time.
  15. Once the meat has reached the right temperature remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing so the meat juices have time to redistribute.  If you cut it right away all the juice will run out of the meat and give you a very dry piece of tenderloin.
  16. Slice pork and top with sweet onion sauce

This pork is flavorful enough to eat on it’s own, or add a topping, or just a simple spoonful of applesauce.  The spicy mustard keeps the pork moist and adds the perfect amount of heat to the delicate tenderloin.

Below is an alternate topping my loving boyfriend made for the following evening.  The dates disintegrated in the warm sauce resulting in a sweet jam like marmalade.

Alternate Topping

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 6 dates, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. butter

October 11, 2011

Homemade Meatloaf with Peppers and Fresh Herbs

Please try to forget all the stereotypes of the classic meatloaf.  I know; it’s hard.  So to try and help I’ve come up with a recipe to help put all your fears of dense, hard, dry meat bricks to rest.  It’s a modern spin on a traditional comfort food, with a promise to deliver juicy, flavorful meatloaf, which will leave you sneaking back to the kitchen for seconds.

When I’m served a hot plate of meatloaf, I search for the steaming aroma of meat, onions and spice that reminds me Fall’s crisp air is just around the corner.  The sage gives off a woodsy, minty flavor that pairs well the fresh rosemary, which has a unique pine-like fragrant flavor balanced by a rich pungency, a combination that evokes both the forest and the sea.  The use of bell pepper and jalapeño gives the meatloaf a sweet and spicy contrast, and the hint of green specks is beautiful.  While some people might be looking for the ketchup crust or the homemade gravy, I turned to my magic ingredient.  Bacon.  Yes, I cover the loaf with bacon and let it crisp up in the oven, helping to keep the meat moist, tender and delicious.

Two tips I have before I get started.  First, don’t over mix the meat.  This is the biggest culprit for tough meatloaf.  You want to mix the ingredients into the meat, not knead it like bread or pasta.  If you’re gentle and quick with the meat, you’re meatloaf will be fluffy and juicy.  Second, I recommend cooking it on a baking sheet, not in a loaf pan.  The sides of the pan get hotter than the oven and tend to burn the edges.  Have fun with this and get your hands dirty,  it’ll be worth it.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed finely diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard (hot Coleman’s English mustard is the best)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 10 oz. packet of center cut bacon

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line a medium size baking sheet with foil and set aside for meatloaf
  • In a medium skillet, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeño.  Sprinkle with salt and stir so the oil evenly coats all the vegetables.  Leave on medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and slightly brown.  You’re caramelizing the onions; about 10 mins.
  • Remove from heat and let cool
  • While vegetables cool, add meat, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, parsley, Worcestershire, panko, ketchup, and eggs in a large bowl
  • When vegetables are cool, add them to the large bowl and mix with hands (don’t try using a spoon, it’s time to use your hands!)
  • Mix quickly and gently, the more you mix the tougher your meatloaf will turn out (which is why you don’t want to use a spoon).  Just mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • Lay the meat on foil lined baking sheet and form into a large log
  • Take the bacon and lay slices across the meat.  This will add flavor and keep the meat moist while it bakes in the oven.
  • Bake for 110~130 mins until cooked through, check with an oven thermometer.  Internal temperature should reach 150°F.
  • When meatloaf is cooked through, turn broiler on low, and cook for 5 mins to crisp bacon.  Stay near the kitchen and keep your eye on this, it may only take 2 minutes depending on your oven, and it will happen quickly!
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  This allows the meat juices to redistribute.
  • Serve with ketchup!
September 7, 2011

Hatch Chile and Chicken Enchiladas

I grew up in a very British household, my mom being from South Wales and my Dad is from London. With two British parents, Mexican chiles weren’t a common ingredient in our home.  It wasn’t until I moved to Houston a year ago that I discovered the varieties available and the subtle differences between each one.  One month into my Houston arrival, the Hatch Green Chili festival was being held at the local Central Market grocery store.  Of course, I came home with bags of roasted Hatch chiles with little idea of what to do with them.  So, I made it up as I went along.

We were having people over for dinner a few nights later and figured it would be a good way to use up a bunch of chiles and make my fellow Houstonians feel at home.  I don’t think Shepherd’s Pie would’ve gone over so well in 102-degree heat.   I settled on Chile chicken enchiladas, I’d never made enchiladas before so this was an experiment, and one that turned out quite well!

You should know, I don’t usually make this dish from scratch (unless I want to spend 2 hours making dinner).  We have this dish the night after cooking chicken;  I always cook extra the night before and it saves me at least in hour in the kitchen.

I also take another shortcut; I buy roasted hatch green chiles.  You can get these in August at most grocery stores, and can be stored in the freezer for use year round.  This will save you time and mess. If you need to roast them yourself, I recommend doing it in the oven.  Put the chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning with tongs, until the skin is blackened. Skin the peppers; then seed, core, and dice them.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups roasted, chopped hatch green chiles (roasted poblanos also work)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional if you want to add some extra heat)
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 cup grated Monterrey jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated queso fresco Mexican cheese (if you can’t find this you can substitute with a mild Feta cheese)
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded

Method

Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat
  • Add onion and sauté on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes, add garlic for the last-minute so it doesn’t burn
  • Raise heat to medium and slowly stir in spices, stirring for 2 minutes
  • Then sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring, 1 more minute
  • Gradually pour in the stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  The liquid will slowly thicken.
  • Add the chopped chiles and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so

While sauce is cooking, shred the leftover chicken.  If you’re starting from scratch, dust the chicken with cumin, salt and pepper and place on oiled grill.  After cooking shred and leave it on the side for assembly.  (You can also chop the chicken, personally like the texture of it shredded).

Now it’s time to assemble!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place a tortilla on your cutting board; add a few dollops of the chicken, and then spoon on the sauce.
  • Sprinkle with a little cheese, and roll the tortilla to enclose the filling.
  • Place it seem side down in the baking dish. Continue to fill all the tortillas and put them in the baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top.
  • Serve hot with a side of sour cream, salsa or guacamole.

If you want to make this dish vegetarian friendly, just omit the chicken and replace the stock with water.  I usually make one of each when we have friends over.  You can assemble it earlier in the day and then just pop it in the over when your guests arrive.

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