March – 3 Pepper Pasta with Garlic

March – 3 Pepper Pasta with Garlic

Sometimes the best recipes come out of necessity, this time the need for a quick dinner with minimal ingredients (the fridge was almost bare). We were away over the weekend, arriving home on Sunday night hungry from a long drive. Something was required almost instantly before true bad humor hit. This recipe will do it for you…it literally took only 15 minutes from the time the pasta water came to a boil. Apart from pantry staples (a box of dried pasta, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, black pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes) only 2 sweet fresh red peppers are required. Don’t have red peppers in the fridge? Use Brussels sprouts or cabbage or winter squash (you will need to peel and cut them into quite small cubes) or red onion or fresh tomatoes in summer. If you have fresh herbs on hand or in the garden, toss them in at the end. What about basil with tomatoes, mint with carrots or peas, cilantro with frozen corn? Be inventive! It’s nice to have a color contrast but certainly not required.

3 Pepper Pasta

The 3 types of pepper in this recipe come from red peppers, a good pinch of red pepper flakes, and a generous grinding of black pepper.

You will have dinner on the table faster than it would take you to run to the deli for takeout.

3 Pepper Pasta with Garlic – serves 4 to 6 generously

Ingredients:

  • Dried pasta of your choice, I used a 1 lb. box of fusilli
  • 2 fresh red peppers, cored and seeded, then cut into julienne sticks
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • kosher salt
  • Pinch or about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy)
  • Generous grind of black pepper, or about 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped parsley or other herb (optional), about 1/2 cup
  • Freshly ground parmesan or other hard cheese

Method:

  1. First bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a couple of teaspoons of salt. Pasta water should taste like the sea.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, slice the red peppers and mince the garlic.
  3. Once the water comes to a boil, add your pasta and set a timer. The fusilli required 13 minutes for al dente. Since I planned to cook it with the red peppers at the end, I wanted a little bite left in it.
  4. Put a saucepan, large enough to hold the cooked pasta, over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it starts to shimmer.
  5. Add the fresh red pepper and pepper flakes, saute until it begins to soften (about 5 minutes)
  6. Add the garlic, turn down the heat as you want the garlic to soften but not brown.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of cooking liquid and drain the rest.
  8. Add the pasta to the saucepan with the peppers and garlic. Turn up the heat a bit and stir, add the reserved cooking water by tablespoons until the pasta softens a bit more and glistens. (You will probably not need the full cup.)
  9. Drizzle with more olive oil, grind the black pepper over the top, add the parsley and grated parmesan.

Dinner is served!

Add the red peppers to the hot pan along with the red pepper flakes

Softened Red Peppers

Add the pasta to the red peppers

Chopped Parsley

Pasta with red peppers, black pepper, garlic and parsley

Finish with freshly grated cheese

This recipe is similar to one of my very first posts for pasta with peas, another pantry staple this time from the freezer.

I am taking this to share with fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday, over at Angie’s. Can you believe it is #163! Click on the link to see what everyone else is bringing to the party.

March – Lamb Tagine (Moroccan Lamb with Apricots)

March – Lamb Tagine (Moroccan Lamb with Apricots)

A tagine consists of soft chunks of meat and/or vegetables scented with spices and often sweetened with fruit. It originated in North Africa, but quickly spread to France, maybe because it is similar to a French ragout. The difference is in the seasonings used and the amount of liquid. A ragout almost always requires a significant amount of wine and sometimes broth to braise the meat, a tagine needs very little in the way of additional liquid. That due to the shape of the pot (also called a tagine) used to prepare the dish. The cooking vessel has a domed tight-fitting lid. As the food cooks, aromatic steam rises to the top of the lid and drips back over the contents of the dish. and the food steams as it cooks, rising to the top of the lid and then dropping back over the contents of the dish. The food is bathed in its own juices.

Emile Henry Tagine

Don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine. I have cooked this successfully in a covered casserole dish, first covered tightly with aluminum foil and followed by the lid, It should be tightly sealed so no steam escapes.

Lamb Tagine in Copco Casserole

The classical accompaniment to tagine is couscous, but rice or flat bread works very well. You will want something to soak up the juices.

This recipe came from the New York Times Sunday addition, The New Essentials of French Cooking.

The best lamb to use is bone-in lamb stew meat. At my local butcher I found it for $3.99/pound. That is a very good price here in Northern California, making this a very affordable dish, fancy enough for company.

Lamb Tagine with Apricots (feeds 4 – 6)

  • 3 pounds of bone-in lamb stew meat (lamb neck is delicious) cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. If your lamb more bone than meat, you may want a little extra.
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt plus more as needed.
  • 1 3/4 lamb or chicken stock
  • 1 cup of dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks
  • large pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup of packed cilantro, tightly packed, chopped and divided in half

For garnish:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of sliced almonds
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

I found it easiest to measure out the spices into a small bowl before I started cooking.

Method

  1. If you have time, one day before or at least 1 hour before, put the lamb in a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt. Combine and let sit at room temperature for an hour or overnight in the fridge.
  2. When ready to start cooking, heat the stock to boiling in a small saucepan. Add the apricots and turn off the heat. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  4. In a dutch oven, skillet, or bottom of your tagine, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the lamb in batches and brown, leaving space around each piece. Try to brown all sides of the meat. This could take 10 minutes or more. Remove the lamb pieces to a plate as they are browned.
  5. Drain any excess fat in the pan and add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook until they soften, another 8-10 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste, fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, and the spices to the onions in the pan. Cook until fragrant (a couple of minutes), then add back the lamb and any juices, plus the apricots, stock, and half the cilantro.
  7. (If you have done this in a skillet, transfer everything to your casserole dish, scraping up any brown bits in the bottom of your skillet.)
  8. Bring it to a simmer and cover the pot tightly.
  9. Transfer to the oven and cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the lamb is tender. The original recipe calls for turning the lamb occasionally, but I was busy and left it for the 3 hours without any ill effects.

Garnish

  1. Melt the butter in a small skillet with the cinnamon stick. Add the almonds and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook gently until golden brown. Discard the cinnamon stuck and remove the skillet from the heat.
  2. When serving, garnish the lamb with the almonds, remaining chopped cilantro, scallions, and parsley.

Lamb Tagine with Rice

Opening the tagine dish or casserole dish is an amazing experience. As you lift the lid, aromatic steam is released full of the scent of exotic spices. Quickly garnish the dish just before serving. This can also be made ahead and gently reheated.

This is a perfect dish to dazzle my fellow bloggers at Fiesta Frida #162. Fiesta Friday is a virtual party (unfortunately) but you may be inspired to make some of the dishes yourself this weekend. Please come join the fun, we would also love to see your own post at the party. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie and co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons (hey, that’s me!!).

Click on the Fiesta Friday link to read the posts.

 

February – White Fish with Magic Green Sauce

February – White Fish with Magic Green Sauce

Have you heard of basa? It is a freshwater fish, a type of catfish and its Latin name is Pangasius bocurti. It was on sale at my local fishmonger recently and although they admitted it was farmed, they said it was raised with best practices according to their supplier. The fish is native to Southeast Asia and farmed in large numbers in pens around the Mekong River system in Vietnam, as well as China and Cambodia. There is some controversy between various seafood watch organizations as to the sustainability and environmental impact of farming it. The Seafood Importers Association of Australasia is a strong advocate, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program does not recommend it, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s montereybayaquarium.org website rates it as a “good alternative” to catfish but with some caveats.

Basa is described as having large, white fillets with no bones, and flesh that is moist with a light, firm texture and a mild fish flavor. This makes basa a versatile species that can be used in a multitude of recipes and cooking styles.

I had great aspirations and was inspired to cook it according to the recipe posted for Goan Fish Curry by Caroline’s Cooking. But then it was 6 pm and I couldn’t find the coriander seeds and didn’t have a fresh tomato (it being the dead of winter and pouring rain outside). I quickly lost my ambition. The curry will have to wait, maybe this weekend. But, plain pan fried fish sounded very boring. What to do? Searching for inspiration I stumbled upon one of my old blog posts for Magic Green Sauce, written almost a year ago. Magic Green Sauce elevates almost any “plain” food straight up to heavenly. Try it on grilled chicken breasts or tofu, you will not be disappointed.

I made a few alterations to the basic recipe, using what items were on hand. Here is the recipe so you don’t need to look it up:

Magic Green Sauce (makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup packed mixed parsley and cilantro, I added a few sprigs of mint (basil or Thai basil would have been lovely but I did not have any on hand)
  • I small piece (about an inch) of lemon grass (strictly optional but found in the back of the crisper drawer and love its aroma)
  • 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (I like 2)
  • 1/2 cup water (I used coconut water)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup shelled cashews (original recipe uses pistachios)
  1. Pulse all the ingredients except the nuts in the bowl of your food processor until smooth and well incorporated.
  2. Add the pistachios or other nuts and blend until mostly smooth.
  3. Serve as a dip, a spread, or sauce. You may thin with additional water or oil if needed. I like mine the consistency of a thick mayonnaise.

This will keep for a week and is better if allowed to mellow for a few hours before using, if you have the time.

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

I prepared the fish simply, processing a couple of handfuls of cashews till the size of panko crumbs, lightly coating the fish in the nuts to have a crunchy outside. Then quickly sautéing the filets in coconut oil on medium high heat. It took only a few minutes. You could also use a coating of flour or panko break crumbs instead of the nuts. I wanted this to be gluten free.

Sauteed Basa with Magic Green Sauce

Sauteed Basa with Magic Green Sauce

The original recipe for Magic Green Sauce came from the blog A Pinch of Yum, one of my favorites.

Try this sauce with a tray of roasted vegetables as well.

Roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes

Roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes

Magic Green Sauce

Magic Green Sauce

I am taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #161 hosted by Angie. Her cohost this week is Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to join the fun and read the recipes brought to the virtual party by other bloggers.

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

Roasting is my preferred way of cooking Brussels sprouts, also cauliflower and many other vegetables. I have found that roasting at a high temperature produces a char that brings out their sweetness. You will find a basic recipe for oven roasting sprouts here.

Lately though, Brussels sprouts have been showing up as a first course on many restaurant menus. The preparations have been varied and include roasting, but also frying and even deep fat frying. The fried sprouts have been absolutely delicious! They arrive glistening with oil, the edges wonderfully crisp and charred to sweetness.

I had relegated fried sprouts as a dish to eat in restaurants, a special treat. However, after frying some bacon for another dish, I ended up with about 6 tablespoons of aromatic bacon fat. The crisper drawer had some sprouts, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. This is clearly not a vegetarian dish, but I think it would be just as wonderful made with coconut oil and a few slices of fresh ginger. I don’t consider this recipe deep fat fried, but the sprouts are cooked in a generous quantity of oil or fat.

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

There really isn’t a recipe, here are just a few tips and instructions.

Trim the bottoms of the sprouts and remove any discolored or limp leaves. Cut the sprouts in half if small, quarter them if larger. Save any loose leaves that fall off.

Heat the oil on medium high until quite hot, add the sprouts and any extra leaves. Cook until brown with charred spots. Keep the heat fairly high as you want them to brown quickly on the outside but still retain some crunch in the middle. This method was much faster than my usual roasting but it did require more attention. I grated some fresh lime zest over the top to cut the richness, and added a pinch of flaked sea salt to finish. They were amazing! Probably not something I would do every day because of the larger amount of fat, but I highly recommend this way of preparing them. The edges were crispy and had a satisfying char. They were very sweet and wonderfully flavored by the bacon fat. Restaurant quality!

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #159, a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Click on the link to see all the yummy food the group has to share.

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe combines two of my favorite foods, chicken and tomato soup (don’t worry, it won’t call for that red and white can). Those flavors are especially welcome on a night like this, stormy and cold. We took the dogs for a walk on the beach just before the rain hit, the first drops fell as we were driving away from the parking lot.

Seaside Winter Beach

Seaside Winter Beach

Don’t you think a winter beach is special? It was empty of summer visitors, only the hardiest souls were out in the late afternoon. We only met two other couples, both with dogs chasing balls or sticks.  out. Our dogs were in heaven, excited by the wind, leaping into the air to catch the frisbee.

The beach was full of driftwood washed up by the waves onto the high tide line. I didn’t get a picture, unfortunately. The salvage groups have been out cutting up the logs.

Winter beach

Winter beach

I cooked this sous-vide, inspired by a post from Bewitching Kitchen for Chicken Korma-ish. But the dish could also be cooked in a skillet with the sauce. I will give instructions for both. Sous-vide means “under vacuum” and is a method of cooking in a water bath at a very carefully controlled temperature. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag, either under vacuum or the air having removed by displacement. Your food cannot overcook. It takes longer but the results are amazing. In this case, silky and moist chicken breasts.

I served this with both spiralized zucchini and pasta. Take your pick, it was delicious both ways.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced. I didn’t bother to skin them as I was going to puree them in the food processor.
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • thinly sliced basil or parsley, about 1/4 cup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • toasted pine nuts for serving
  • garnish of chopped basil
  • pasta of any shape or spiralized vegetable

If making this in the summer with wonderful vine ripened tomatoes, you may not need to add the tomato paste. Since these were February tomatoes, green house grown, they could use a little help.

Method

  1. If using sous-vide, heat your water bath to 150 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the shallot and saute until starting to soften.
  4. Add the garlic, do not let either the shallot or garlic brown. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the sliced tomatoes, cook until softened and starting to melt into the pan.

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

  6. Add the tomato paste and salt, stir to mix.
  7. Put the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of the cream and process again.
  9. For sous-vide:
    1. Add the diced chicken to a food safe plastic bag.
    2. Add the second 1/3 cup cream to the bag and mix.
    3. Add the contents of your blender or food processor and mix.
    4. Immerse the bag in the water and squeeze out the air.
    5. Cook for 2 hours, 3 is ok if you need to leave it longer.
  10. For traditional:
    1. Return the contents of the processor or blender to the skillet, add the second 1/3 cup cream and mix.
    2. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and heat on medium until just under the boil.
    3. Add the chicken and turn the heat to low.
    4. Cook until the chicken is done, about 10-15  minutes. Test a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through.
Spiralized Zucchini

Spiralized Zucchini

There is a trick to using spiralized zucchini. Zucchini is mostly water. salting before using will help it retain the crispness. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt and drain in a colander. Then dry on paper towels or a tea cloth before using. You will be amazed at the liquid that is released (and doesn’t water down your sauce). You can then add the zucchini to the hot sauce in the skillet to heat.

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

The chicken was fantastic!

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.