Quick non-pasta

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What to serve when you’re pasta-weary and you need dinner in a hurry? 5 ingredient turkey chili for them, and a hearty salad—with almonds, goat cheese and roasted sweet potatoes—for me.

The chili went over well with Rose because we served it “free-style,” meaning, do-it-yourself toppings. It continues to amaze me that letting her add her own toppings turns a meal she’d ordinarily complain about, into a meal she’ll get excited about.TurkeyChili_IMG_0631

Stovetop mac & cheese

Stovetop_Mac&Cheese_IMG_0626This recipe comes from the May 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Living. It’s such a hit that we’ve already had it twice, and it’s not even May yet!

It’s kind of like a combo between Pasta alla Carbonara (without the carbonara) and macaroni and cheese. A great, quick alternative to the big-deal baked mac & cheese we all love so much.

This recipe is delicious, relatively quick, and nearly perfect for a weeknight. I say nearly perfect because it requires that you make your own breadcrumbs by trimming the crusts off of a ciabatta and then pulsing it in the food processor. I don’t like to haul out my food processor on weeknights.

Maybe that sounds silly, but the removing it from the shelf and then washing the parts is just too much for a weeknight in my book.

Because we liked this dish so much, I decided to make a bunch of bread crumbs at once and freeze them. That way, next time I make it, the breadcrumb-making step is already taken care of.

A couple of other notes: You could probably save some time by buying pre-grated cheddar cheese, if you’re into that. It seems like 1 cup is going to be way too much pasta cooking water, but it’s not, the sauce continues to thicken as it sits. I make my cheese measurements a bit generous.

• Stove-Top Macaroni & Cheese •
from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

2-3 slices rustic bread (such as ciabatta), trimmed of crusts and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter (recipe calls for unsalted, but salted is just fine)
1 lb fusilli or cavatappi (the recipe calls for spaghetti but I prefer a curly pasta)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard (this is essential)

Pulse the bread in a food processor until coarsely ground, or use breadcrumbs you’ve made previously. Toast breadcrumbs in a large skillet over medium heat, tossing until golden and crisp. Turn off the heat and add the butter, stirring to coat the bread crumbs. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water then drain pasta.

While pasta is cooking, whisk together the eggs, cream, cheeses and mustard in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Return pasta to pot and add cheese mixture, cook over low heat, stirring until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add reserved pasta cooking water 1/4 cup at a time, stirring to make a creamy sauce. Top with bread crumbs and serve immediately.

 

 

 

Penne alla vodka

PenneAllaVodka_IMG_0593We had family over from Ireland for the past two weeks, which is why I’ve been remiss in my posting. I neglected to post about a lot of really great meals, and I hope to revisit some of the recipes and get them up here for you.

In the mean time, we’ve been eating Penne Alla Vodka made with fusilli. It’s really good with fusilli because the sauce gets all stuck in and around the spirals. If you’ve never made Penne (or fusilli) Alla Vodka, you should really try it. It’s not complicated, despite the fancy name, and it’s quick, good for weeknights. The recipe is here.PenneAllaVodka_IMG_0610

Nicoise-ish salad and grilled chicken

Nicoise-ish_IMG_0583This was a great, quick, last-minute, post-travel meal. Simple grilled chicken breasts (aka Weekday Chicken) and a Niçoise-inspired salad.

For the salad, I used a mixture of arugula and baby spinach, topped with slivered yellow pepper, radish slices, hard-boiled egg rounds (it is Easter Sunday after all), kalamata olives, and boiled new potatoes tossed in leftover pesto. The dressing was a simple dijon vinaigrette.

Baby Sid has officially lost interest the behemoth baby swing, and made his table-top debut in the Bumbo seat tonight. He’s not ready for solids yet, but we gave him a spoon so he wouldn’t feel left out.
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Easter Saturday

(click on the photos for slide show view, and description)

As you might recall from last year, we celebrate Easter on Saturday. This is mostly because it’s more convenient for the people who have to drive several hours to get home, to do that the next day. Also, it means a lot of folks who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to make it due to their own family celebrations, can join us.

The menu is always a selection of salads and savory pies, and meat of some sort. For pies this year, we had Geraldine Ferraro’s Easter Pie, Torta Verde and new addition: mozzarella pie with kale and sun dried tomatoes.

The salads were barley with corn, parsley and endive, roasted beet, onion and lentil, celery with golden raisins, almonds and herbs, fennel and orange with avocado and herbs, and a delicious mixed green.

Lamb was the featured meat, both roasted (over spoons), and in meatball form with tzatziki dipping sauce.

That’s pretty much all I can tell you as I did not help out even a little bit this year, because, you know, I’ve got a baby.

Friday by Dad

ShrimpInSauce_IMG_0513On Friday we traveled up to my folks’ place with Shane’s brother and his family for the Easter weekend. Because they are wonderful, my parents welcomed us with a delicious dinner, and drinks of course.

My dad made shrimp cooked in tomato sauce which you eat with crusty bread slathered with creamy Irish butter. My mom was sous chef and salad-contributor. There’s really nothing better than coming home to my parents’ cooking.

Also, there were a lot of stripes.
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Passover

Yup, somehow we ended up hosting a last-minute Passover Seder and dinner for 10. I won’t bother to tell you how a goy like me end up with this honor, but I will tell you how I got it done on short notice and with just a few hours prep time.

The first step was to channel my inner Rita, who loves the challenge of a party that requires more work than seems humanly possible. Also, the promise of Passover Crack kept me going. Most importantly though, I had more than a little help from my aunt Gail, who’s an actual chosen person (in case you were thinking wtf).

Gail led the Seder, and provided the Seder plate, charoseth, maror, wine, flowers, gefilte fish, and matzo ball soup, as well as a host of other essential ingredients.

I’m not sure how the actual Seder went because it coincided with baby Sid’s ‘falling apart time,’ and I had to leave the table to put him to bed. From the bedroom, it sounded like there were some good discussions going on. All in all, a huge success.

On the menu: Matzo Ball Soup by Gail, Shane’s Easy Oven Fries, Roast Chicken made by me with telephone support from my dad (recipe below), a beautiful salad that I forgot to photograph, roasted eggplant with pesto and goat cheese, hard boiled eggs and gefilte fish on the side, and for dessert, the always-addictive Passover Crack (recipe also below).

Extra thanks to Gail for the suggestion and help and to Shane for his bang-up post-dinner cleaning job. And to Sid, for napping.

• Easy, Delicious, Roast Chicken •
with help from my dad
serves 8-10

Two 3lb certified humane chickens (I like Murray’s)
1 stick salted butter, cut in half
2 lemons
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch parsley
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the innards from the chickens, rinse them inside and out, pat outside dry and sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Roll the lemons on the counter with you hand to soften, then cut several slices into the lemon lengthwise, all around. Stuff each chicken with a lemon, half a bunch of thyme, half a bunch of parsley and half a stick of butter. Put them into a roasting pan where they will fit somewhat tightly, breast side down. Salt and pepper the bottom side of each chicken, then drizzle with olive oil. Flip so the chickens are breast-side up and then salt, pepper and olive oil the tops. Cook for about an hour and a half, basting frequently, until the juices run clear. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes or so and carve.

• Passover Crack •
from Smitten Kitchen

4 to 6 sheets matzo or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers of your choice
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
A big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.

Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. If using matzo, you’ll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces.

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.

Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt. (The sea salt is great on matzo. On Saltines, it’s really not necessary.)

Once completely cool — you can speed this process up in the fridge— break it into pieces and store it in a container. It should keep for a week.

 

 

 

Super-simple

Super-simple_IMG_0483We had another long day out today. Brunch at La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel followed by a walk on the High Line.

We didn’t want to eat out again, but didn’t have much energy to cook dinner either.

The solution? Pasta with garlic and oil, pasta with leftover red sauce, a simple salad and a roast chicken made by someone else.

Tiring Lasagna

Sleepin_IMG_0476We have family over from Ireland this week. After a long day out and about, we headed home for Rita’s Lasagna and a simple salad. Little Clara was a trooper, but didn’t last until dinner time.