Category: pasta

Angry Chicken (Arrabbiata)

The word “arrabbiata” in Spanish means angry, and this sauce is meant to make your mouth burn. That was my goal at least, as I’ve been trying to kick a wicked sore throat for days and have a very unscientific theory that spicy foods will heal the hurt.

This sauce turned out GREAT, and earned happy sighs and compliments from my fiancé as well. It’s spicy but not overboard, easy but layered in flavor. I’m making this again with shrimp!

IngredientsSeasoning
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs or 3 breasts
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 (24 oz.) marinara sauce
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 12 oz. pasta for serving
  • Goat cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Season the chicken thighs with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes each side), then remove the chicken from the skillet.
  3. After the chicken is removed from the skillet, add the onion and minced garlic to the pan, loosening the browned bits. Sauté briefly until onion and garlic are soft.
  4. Add marinara sauce, tomatoes with juices, basil, crushed red pepper, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  5. Return the chicken to the skillet with the sauce, and spoon some sauce over top of each piece. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Taste it and adjust the heat and salt. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through to make sure both sides receive adequate heat and sauce.
  6. Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked pasta. Top with goat cheese.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

P.S. Don’t serve this over brown rice pasta. They’re lying. It’s not the same as normal pasta and you will be disappointed.

No Cook Main Meal: Chicken Caprese Salad

It’s summer. They tell me we’ll hit 100 here in Austin for the next 3 months. For the sake of our electric bill and my sanity, I’m hunting for low-to-no cook dinners. I found this lil’ beauty on The Skinny Chick Can Bake, and made a few changes.

You’ll spend time on the prep side with chopping and dicing, so pour a glass of wine and carry on.

Ingredients:1823189

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (or halved grape/ cherry tomatoes )
  • 12 – 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • I.5 cups diced celery – this sounds odd but it’s necessary for the crunch and color
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 cup sliced basil (or combo of dried, paste and nearly-dead leaves from your patio plant)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup+ balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste (like guacamole, don’t under-salt)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken (optional)

Instructions:

1. Chop tomatoes, mozzarella, celery, cucumber and basil. Combine them one bowl. If adding chicken, put it in too.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk together and pour over vegetables and chicken. Toss gently.

3. Eat! We ate it straight up with forks, but pita pockets or naan would also work well. I might add avocado or chilled pasta next time. Taste and see what you think. A pinch of sugar?

Broccoli Cheese Quinoa Casserole

I generally consider casseroles to be sad, overcooked, under-spiced concoctions served lukewarm at church dinners with low expectations.

But lo! It is not so!  This recipe changed my mind and I can’t get enough of it. No… really, I try not to eat the whole pan in one sitting. After trying this at a friends’ home where two kiddos live, I modified it from the original recipe for a more adult palate. My significant other tops it with hot sauce for a bit more punch.

Ingredients

It’s not gonna win any beauty contests, but it is a fiiiine piece of comfort food eating.

10 oz can condensed cream of broccoli OR cream of mushroom soup
– 1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use canola mayonnaise to avoid trans fats)
– 2 TBS milk or milk-product
– 1 1/2 cups-ish reduced fat sharp cheddar shredded cheese
– 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
– 1 TB white sugar
– 1 tsp black pepper
– 4 TBS+ whole grain mustard (Don’t skip this)
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (Don’t overdo this)
– 1 tsp+ salt, to taste
– 32 oz bag of frozen broccoli, thawed in the microwave and coarsely chopped
– 1 1/2 cups  COOKED quinoa (see below)

Directions

1.  Cook quinoa: combine 3/4 cup quinoa, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 18-20 minutes, or until fluffy and the white ring/tail is visible.  Fluff with a fork.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a shallow 9×13 casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray.

3. In a large bowl combine the soup, mayonnaise, milk, shredded cheese, sugar, pepper, mustard, 1/2 cup Parmesan and nutmeg until well mixed. Stir in the quinoa and chopped broccoli.

4. Spoon mixture into prepared dish.  Top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly on the edges and golden. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving — or dive in and scald your tongue.

Makes 6 adult-sized portions.

Superbowl Leftovers Revamped

I don’t know about you, but our Superbowl Party averaged at least 1.5 bags of chips per person and awesome amounts of nachos, hummus, baby veggies, bean dip (two kinds!) and beer. Needless to say, we brought home leftovers. Up for a challenge of re-purposing cheese dip for something other than consumption with  corn chips, I created the following recipe.

Before: Half a crock-pot of cold Rotel dip, which – for the uninitiated – consists of a block of Velveeta cheese + 2 cans of Rotel

After: Spicy  Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli

Process: I bought 2 boxes of elbow pasta (buy one, get one free!) and brought one box to a boil. With about 6 minutes left, I dumped in a bag of frozen broccoli. Why use an extra pot when it’s all mixing together anyway?

I drained the pasta/broccoli mix, and scopped out half of the leftover Rotel dip into the bottom of pot. I topped this with the pasta/broccoli mix and then added the rest of the leftover Rotel dip on top. I let it sit about a minute or so to start melting. Stir, stir, and viola! 5-6 servings of mac ‘n cheese with a side of broccoli thrown in for healthy good measure.

Rating: 5 stars. I ate 3 bowls of this before pulling down the Tupperwares and freezing the rest.  Quick, easy comfort food.

TIP: You could thrown in other vegetables or meat you have on hand, and use any dried pasta that’s languishing in your cabinet.

Hmm, apparently I’m not all that innovative. Check out this list of recipes for macaroni and cheese with Rotel.

January is Eat-at-Home Month

As usual, I was a bit overzealous in my holiday gift buying, leaving my budget a bit depleted. It’s hard not to buy things that make me think of people! And by extension, not to treat myself along the way. The thought process goes something like this:” Well, they asked for fun socks and it’s a better deal to buy this large pack, so then I can keep several pairs too because I also need socks.”

Fortunately, there are solutions. Like a diet, little decisions to change add up to bigger results. Bar hop after work? Nah. Pick up a $3 hazelnut coffee? I can have free coffee in the office. Running late and tempted to say f– it? I can always pack peanut butter. And despite what Target thinks, I really don’t NEED another pumpkin spice candle, even if it’s on clearance. So this month is eat-in month.

The Plan: At my house we’re alternating being in charge of dinners – flipping chef or sous chef titles – by each selecting 2-3 recipes for the week and purchasing the necessary ingredients.  We also have some flexibility to eat out one lunch a week, and a dinner out with limited beverages. DC martinis cost something ridiculous like $12 each. So far, eat at home month has turned out a couple new standby’s. A few recipes so far:

  • Easy Tomato-Vegetable soup with rosemary crackers and hummus
  • Crock Pot Beef Stew – held the peas and wine, added tomato juice
  • Fun-shaped Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Lemon-rosemary White Bean Dip
  • Pad See-Ew (literally “soy sauce stir-fry“) with Chicken — An eating out splurge, though I do dream of having Thai noodle cooking skills
  • Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers with soy sauce and sesame oil — The  frozen potstickers were so-so, but I am a huge fan of mixing 2 parts soy sauce: 1 part sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or garlic and it’s a party in your mouth.
  • Chicken Gumbo with Sausage soup — canned, with oddly crunchy white rice

On the menu this week:

It’s great being an omnivore, isn’t it? Updates to come! Other simple but tasty dine-in dinner suggestions welcome.

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake

I love spaghetti squash. It’s like you’re eating a bowlof comforting carb-loaded noodles,  when actually it’s a vegetable!  But in case you haven’t hung out with the gourd lately, spaghetti squash doesn’t really taste like much. Or anything at all.

Determined to enliven a healthy, albeit boring, bowl of spaghetti squash, I stumbled across this recipe from Once Upon a Chef and tried it out on two unsuspecting dinner guests. Here’s my take on it – which was a success considering that only 2 servings remained at the end of dinner.

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 cups jarred marinara sauce – pick one with bold flavor
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
8 oz fresh spinach
1 TBS Italian seasoning blend
3 TBS chopped fresh basil
1 cup shredded cheeses  (Mozzarellla, Asiago and/or Parmesan)
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs – cuz they’re the best kind
Salt
Black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

1. Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place spaghetti squash in pot, cover with lid and simmer, turning once, for about 30 -40 minutes, or until squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. While it’s cooling, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

TIP:  For those impatient cooks, you can also just slice the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, cover with Saran Wrap and microwave each half– cut side up– for 6-7 minutes each. )

2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. It will be hot! Use a fork to pull out the flesh,  shredding and separating the strands like noodles  (it is best to go from side to side, rather than lengthwise). Place strands in large bowl.

3. Add the olive oil, marinara sauce, 1 TBS salt, 2 tsp pepper, Italian seasoning and basil to bowl. Toss gently until squash is well coated with sauce and seasonings. You’ll have to pull the strands apart to get sauce inside. This is your noodle mixture.

4. Transfer half of the noodle mixture to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Layer the spinach, then mushrooms and then half of the cheese. Top with remaining noodle mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over top. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs evenly over top of cheese. Top with fresh Parmesan. TIP: Your layers from the bottom up will be noodles/veggies/cheese/noodles/cheese/panko/Parmesan.

5. Place pan on a cookie sheet to catch drips, and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until top is golden and sauce is boiling. Let sit ~20 minutes before serving. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

For a full-on fall feast, follow the squash bake with this dark Gingerbread cake. One of my dinner guests brought this and I most certainly indulged in 3 squares of  spicy warmth. Don’t be fooled by its basic appearance; this cake packs a wallop of comforting flavor. The chef-ette recommends omitting the cloves, and skipped any toppings.

Growing up we slathered hot gingerbread with Cool Whip so that it melted and slid off the side. This time I let a pat of butter sit and melt on the top for a cold, salty contrast. Other ideas: whipped cream, lemon glaze, cream cheese, powdered sugar…

Losing Weight Won’t Fill the Emptiness Inside. Only Cake Can Do That.

Last week I had the pleasure of tooling around Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Istanbul, Turkey with a dear friend. I ate Nutella by the spoonful, multiple times a day, sometimes on croissants and sometimes on my finger. We consumed a minimum of one bottle of wine each day, often preceded by cake for lunch and beers after dinner – before gelato. We tried expensive wine, girly fizzy drinks and cherry strudels covered in powder sugar. I consumed ketchup-cheese Cheetos, creamy tikka masala with butter-drenched naan, and enough goulash to say it’s not my favorite thing — but Viennese gnocchi sure is delish!

Not once did I make a meaningful effort to workout, though of course we walked a lot (she chuckles; we strolled between stores and restaurants, more precisely). I also made sure that the 2 pairs of jeans I packed were not ever put in the dryer because, ya know, they’re tight. I went to bed most nights with a belly so stuffed it ached.

Before I left I did a little shopping, including buying one of those pairs of stretchy jeans, and a couple of suit pieces in a size I did not expect — larger than  I’ve ever needed. My family isn’t petite; we like to say we’re made of  “good, peasant Polish stock” and “big boned.” But mostly we overeat and under-exercise. So I’m hopping back on the wagon of making better choices — because I want to feel good.  I didn’t say calorie counting or obsessive food journaling. I’m not gonna weigh myself twice a day.  I don’t really do well on diets; restriction makes me binge and tracking food minutiae makes me crazy and cranky. I’m shooting for healthy and realistic, acknowledging that I’m older than when I ran  5ks in 22 minutes and hopefully more balanced than when I made Rice Krispy Treats with margarine and Grape Nuts to reduce my guilt.

I stumbled on this piece today, and it struck a chord:

Losing Weight Won’t Fill the Emptiness Inside. Only Cake Can Do That.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time on diets. At first, it was just something I did to make my parents happy; I didn’t really care too much, I had other shit to do—underwater headstands, amassing an enormous Garbage Pail Kids collection, reading about the color of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s eyes (Pacific Ocean Blue, btw). However, as I got older and saw how much importance was placed on a woman’s looks, particularly in terms of weight, I become more invested in the thought that, with enough hard work and determination, I too could one day be Long Legs Louise.

I poured over diet books, back issues of Cooking Light magazine, and studied Lifetime movies about anorexia like I was a 10-year-old sociologist from Fatlandia, sent to observe the Skinny people and learn their tiny ways. My parents sent me to and enrolled me in every diet program available—Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Overeaters Anonymous, doctors, psychiatrists—you name it. However, no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the weight. The only result of my endless starvation (and the relentless bullying of middle school) was the forgotten enjoyment of all the things my body could do (skip, hopscotch, read) and a budding disappointment in my own faulty size.

Jami Attenberg, the author of the The Middlesteins, a new novel with a central character who is a compulsive overeater, had a similar childhood. After reading My History of Being Fat over at The Hairpin, I’m guessing that her main character’s association with food is — at least — partially informed by Attenberg’s own troubled relationship with the good stuff. She was a fat kid and now she’s a socially acceptable sized adult, and it’s apparent that the scars from childhood trauma cut her deep, too.

One incident strikes me as particularly rough:

In junior high school, in the advanced English class, our teacher engaged us in a verbal exercise. She wanted us to learn about the powers of description. So she had us all stand up in a circle, and everyone had to go around the room and say one word to describe the person standing. Funny, smart, etc. And when it was my turn to stand, a boy named Mark said, “Thunder thighs.” Mark, you idiot, that’s two words.

OMG, fire that teacher immediately and often. Middle school is hard enough as it is (playgrounds overrun with hormonal sociopaths just looking to fight, cop a feel, or get out of running the mile) without having the target on your back that extra pounds seem to earn. I remember, it was near the beginning of my seventh grade year and I was new in school; My entire math class was milling around the classroom door, waiting for our late teacher to arrive. I naturally gravitated toward the other fat girl, I think maybe subconsciously hoping that by standing next to her, I’d appear smaller. Not the case, it was as if our individual fat multiplied by 100 to make one MEGA FAT. We immediately attracted the attention of a group of guys, who began sizing us up and loudly proclaiming what was wrong with both of our bodies. I was too round, whereas she was too square. I don’t know, kids are weird and have terrible snaps, but I still think about the shame and embarrassment I felt that day. All I wanted to do was cry forever, and also firestart the whole school.

So yeah, being picked on as a kid is the fucking worst.

Attenberg carries this self-hate into her adult relationships. She writes:

It is the year 2000, and I weigh around 200 pounds, a fact of which I am unaware because I never get on a scale. (Although I find it out a few weeks later in the bathroom at my brother’s house, finally too curious to resist.) I am sleeping with a man who is not a very nice man, and perhaps not even particularly attractive, but he is quick-witted and sort of cool, and this covers up the not-nice part of him, at least for a period of time. Also, we are always fucked up in one way or another when we are together, either on booze or drugs, and I am still insistent on proving my own attractiveness to myself by having sex as regularly as possible, even if it is with terrible people. We are lying naked on his couch in his shitty Lower East Side basement apartment, and for some reason he is talking about other women he’s seeing, and I’m starting to feel terrible about myself. It’s this feeling that’s creeping slowly up my spine, an unfolding self-disgust, and then he says to me, “But you know, there’s something about a big girl,” and, after a pause, he pats my ass, and all of a sudden I realize he’s talking about me, I am that big girl.

Hold the phone. Maybe Attenberg is “that big girl,” but the the main lesson here, to me, is that the boyfriend was a fucking asshole for talking about other women he’s sexing, as well as fetishizing/generalizing “big girls.” But when someone talks to you like this when you’re fat, you’re supposed to shut up and take it because it’s your fault—why don’t you lose the weight, heifer? Attenberg does acknowledge that he’s not a good dude, but doesn’t really make the leap that the problem isn’t that she’s big, but that he’s a douche. She may in fact be big. He’s still a douche. That’s the problem. Ultimately, this dude’s uncouth (uncouth, I say!) behavior and her sort-of acceptance of it is not so much a reflection on her weight as it is on her self-esteem.

As I grew into adulthood (process ongoing, please check back), I headed down a similar path of destructive behavior. But I got lucky, and was able to hop off that bullshitmobile before it got me into real trouble. I was already battling feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, and just general sadness at the fact that I was such a different person than I was before I started dieting. Also, I was just really hungry.

I began gravitating toward a change when I moved to San Francisco and started meeting women who were just more comfortable with themselves than I was. Sure, they thought about their bodies, but more in terms of what they could do for them, not about how they looked in a short skirt. Also, I learned that all kinds of legs can look damn good in a short skirt, that clothes didn’t necessarily fit them “worse” — just different.

The more time I spent with these women, the more time I was bummed by my singular obsession of being skinny in skinny jeans, a goal I’d never attain, and one that was just so damn draining. Society taught me to diet, but it also taught me to be okay with myself — that there are different ways to be okay, healthy, happy, and attractive. While these ladies brunched, I was compulsively kicking at Billy Blank’s god-forsaken Tae Bo-loving face; and when they were getting late-night pizza, I was enjoying a nice glass of ice water. It was no fun, I wasn’t happy, and I think my inner-fat kid was just like, “Fuck. This. When’s Dinner.”

Bizarrely enough, I had this revelation at fucking Weight Watchers.

There I was, sitting in a weekly meeting (that took place after my Jazzercise class, which I still love and participate in because fit is it, my friends!), gnawing my way through one of their disgusting Aspartame-flavored diet gummy candies, and my “leader” was going on and on about the fact that sure, she didn’t really love eating air-popped Molly McButter-drenched popcorn-like-food, and that she’d rather have a bowl of popcorn tossed in real butter, but she needed to maintain goal weight. A light just went off in my fat-deprived head and I was like, holy fuck, what the fuck am I doing here talking about goal weight with 60 year old women who are trying to lose the last ten pounds? I don’t to be doing this and I don’t want Molly McButter either. Furthermore, carob can suck my dick. I want a fucking candy bar. I don’t want 50 candy bars, but fuck if I’m gonna eat a fruit-juice sweetened cookie-like product called a Frookie ™ again. I’m out.

And this is when my path takes a distinct turn in the fat girl road and I made straight for Attempting Body Acceptance Lane. Attenburg, on the other hand, took the fork in the road toward Salad Town, Population: Extreme Self Control. She lost the weight, she says, almost by accident. She had the good fortune to move into a cabin in the woods to write a book of short stories. As she poured more and more of herself into her work, she poured less and less bacon grease into her waffle batter. She was filling the hole, you guys.

She doesn’t own a scale, which I think is a good call in general, so she weighs herself at a café (?) near her house.

I was at 156 with my clothes on but my shoes off, probably because I ate an entire personal pizza the night before because I found out a certain publication wasn’t going to review my book. (What is it about eating an entire thing, I wonder? Is there a sense of accomplishment? Or perhaps it’s that there’s nothing left behind to remind you of what you just did.)

AN ENTIRE PERSONAL PIZZA!? Get a rope! Maybe she ate the whole thing because she was hungry from chronic dieting, but I am only projecting from my own days down on old diet gulch. When I dieted, it went one of two ways, either something extreme like: cabbage soup, cabbage soup, cabbage soup, all the tears, entire pizza, box of donuts, repeat. Or, I’d take a more reasonable stance, and cut calories down by a decent amount — this would always last longer, until my body would eventually revolt from the calorie deficit and start by eyeing the cat food and would only stop when I’d eaten all the carbs in the house, replaced them, and then eaten them again. So, yeah, dieting didn’t really work for me — well, at least not in an enjoyable way for any period longer than a few years.

Attenberg and I were on similar trajectories, but we ended up at pretty different places. One is not better than the other, they’re just different.

“…I like being responsible to myself. I like taking care of me, as much as I love food. So here I am. Alive,” she writes.

That is fair, and I honestly feel the same way; I am here and Alive too. And I’m fat. And although she issues the disclaimer of, “I realize this is not how it works for everyone, but this is how it worked for me,” it pains me that she correlates her thinner weight with her happiness. It’s natural, but it breaks my heart a little, I’m not gonna lie. “Taking control” of your life when said in regard to weight shouldn’t be synonymous with losing pounds. At least, I really don’t want it to be, because that burden is not healthy. But in every article like Attenberg’s that I’ve ever read, the one where the woman who triumphs over her hunger and emerges a svelte butterfly from her cocoon of lard, there are always tons of comments like, “Congratulations!” and, “You’re an inspiration!” I’m like, really? An inspiration? I think the fact that she writes and publishes novels is a fucking inspiration, but her weight? Nope.

I don’t blame Attenberg for this, or at least I really actively try not to, but it does make me sad.

I went through a lot of my life dealing with the aftermath of chronic dieting and childhood teasing, and it’s those things that attempted to make me feel less than whole, less than human. It wasn’t some mysterious “hole” inside of me that I was trying to stuff with Cheetos, it was put there by a society that’s unrelenting when it comes to women’s bodies. And it wasn’t something that I ever tried to cram with snack packs; if anything, it was something that I tried to dig out and make thinner, make smaller, make gone.

We can’t reframe the way society thinks and feels about weight overnight; there will always be cheering when a fat woman (or probably any woman who doesn’t suffer from visible anorexia) loses weight. But we can fight damn hard for the right to be comfortable in and with our own bodies, even if it’s really, really fucking hard.

I’m not telling you not to care about your body and to let go and eat your house; I know it’s normal to care, it’s beaten into us to care, and honestly, it’s probably healthy to care about what you look like to a certain extent or we’d all walk around with toilet paper hanging out of our butt cracks and wearing polka dots in public when we’re not Minnie Mouse. I just want you to know that you can get to a place where you’re okay with you, and maybe for Attenberg that place involves restricting a part of her, and that’s okay, ya know, but I don’t want that.

I want to acknowledge that shit is fucked re: weight in our society, and I want to invite myself to opt out as much as I possibly can, and if that’s not always, I want to fight back. And most importantly, I want to leave my remaining brain cells open for thinking about the things that are really important to me, including loving my friends, family, and yes, delicious food.

Shrimp Scampi – I Can Make This Better

Fall started this week with cool nights, crisp mornings and me rummaging around in my sock drawer. (I might have worn pink  socks with embroidered  cats to work).  Par for the course of sunset at 4pm, I started craving carbs, quilts and curling up in bed.  What can I say? I’m secretly a bear who wants to hibernate until April.

But until Rip Van Winkle becomes reality, I’ll just cook. Shrimp Scampi is a classic comfort food with its oodles of butter, sautéed garlic, tangy lemon notes and salty noodles — all topped with a soft pile of Parmesan cheese. Thanks to the powers of Google, a search for “the best shrimp scampi recipe” led me to Barefood Contessa’s version. Google lied. It was fine, but kinda dry. Here’s what I recommend to make your scampi better:

Ingredients

  • At least 1/2 cup good olive oil, divided
  • 2 TBS kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 pound pasta
  • 3 TBS butter – not margarine!
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined – tails on or off
  • 1/4 tsp+ freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 3 lemons, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 TBS of salt and the linguine, and cook according to the directions on the package.

2. Meanwhile, in another large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt 2 TBS butter and 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute or until lightly golden.  Add the shrimp, 1 tsp salt, and the pepper. Saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Careful not to overcook shrimp — they should be springy but not chewy.

3. Turn down the heat to low, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, white wine, and red pepper flakes. Stir briefly to combine. It will smell amazing. Remove from heat.

4. When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Add more olive oil to keep noodles from sticking together. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and taste. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon based on preferences. Ladle into low bowls and top with fresh Parmesan, additional red pepper flakes, a pinch of parsley and a lemon wedge.

Serve with remaining wine — or open another bottle since you obviously drank most of the first bottle while cooking. A bit for the dish, a bit for me… A bit for the dish, a bit for me…

TWO TIPS: You can’t have too many shrimp, but you CAN have too few. Don’t skimp on shrimp!

Also, use fresh butter. Not as in fresh from the cow — though that would be delightful — but fresh from the package. Nothing is worse than butter that’s been sitting open in the fridge for a month and tastes like stale celery and sour milk.

Comfort in a Bowl: Avgolemono Soup

Avgolemono literally means ‘egg lemon’ in Greek.  I don’t remember what inspired sampling this soup at a nearby Greek diner, but I was instantly hooked. Don’t let the idea of eggs in soup turn you off; this is 180 degrees different from egg drop soup. This week I made a jumbo pot of it, consuming 3 bowls without blinking an eye –  and am happy as a clam. It’s like the Greek version of chicken ‘n dumplings. Best of all, for all the smooth creaminess you taste, it’s lactose free!

  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken broth – vegetable broth would work too
  • 1 cup orzo (or long grain rice, but I prefer how orzo feels in my mouth)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 10 TBS fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 TBS grated lemon zest – or the zest of about 3 lemons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh dill, slightly chopped
1. In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil.  Add orzo; cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until orzo is al dente. (If using rice, add another cup of chicken broth. Simmer until grains are tender.) Do not drain; set aside.

2. In a bowl, squeeze lemon juice and zest. Add eggs and whisk until foamy and a bit thick. Gradually add 1/2 cup hot broth from saucepan, whisking constantly. Add two more 1/2 cups of broth, whisking after each addition. Whisk until froth increases and the color looks like light lemon or butter cream. (The orzo should stay in the saucepan with some of the broth).

3. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan and reheat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until egg cooks and soup slightly thickens. Do not boil, or eggs will curdle. The froth will remain on top but settle out as time passes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with dill sprig. Serve hot or cold.

As for a wine pairing, I enjoyed a 2009 Vidonya, a Vinho Verde from Portugal apparently. Light and crisp, but not acidic or sweet. (The picture makes the wine look dark as it’s on top of my dark coffee table). I adapted the recipe from Oprah. This recipe serves 8, but can be halved successfully.

Battle of the Brown Rice

I usually default to brown rice. It tastes just as good as white rice, it’s better for me, plus it’s one easy, healthy choice I can make.   But if you’ve read any posts of late, you’re keenly aware that I’m in a lazy cooking slump. As in, most of my meals I made this weekend consisted of salads, hummus, chicken pot stickers, canned soup, spaghetti, peanut butter or frozen meals. Sad, I know, but it’s more economical than eating out all the time. I did try a new place this weekend that hit the spot, though: Bayou Bakery.

I rallied last night and went for an easy, 20 minute, one-pan Chickpea Curry Tomato Stew. (How is it possible I haven’t posted about this recipe before?! I make it at least once a month. Double the spices, by the way). It’s my version of quick, healthy Indian. In deciding what to serve the stew over, my options included:

  • Trader Joe’s Quinoa– Ready in 20 minutes 
  • Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice packets– Ready in 3 minutes
  • Trader Joe’s precooked brown rice pouch – Ready in 90 seconds
  • Whole grain brown rice – Ready in 60 minutes if you’re lucky
  • Uncle Ben’s brown rice pouch – Ready in 90 seconds

My brown rice recommendations, in order of preference – based on ease and quality:

1. TJ’s frozen brown rice packets. The little bit of steaming in the microwave fluffs up the grains, and 3 minutes is still fast as can be.

2. TJ’s quinoa. I like the feeling of the quinoa grains bursting a bit in my mouth. I know this isn’t a rice, but its nutritional profile supersedes all other grains and it was in the running for dinner. The time requirement is the limiting factor for why it’s not #1 on my list. Tip: Don’t over-water quinoa, as it easily turns soggy.

3. TJ’s precooked rice pouch. The rice grains are a little more chewy, less fluffy, and a bit tougher than the frozen rice. Don’t let this rice cool or it’ll dehydrate quickly. But still, the ingredient list is simple and I can handle a 90 second wait.

4. Uncle Ben’s precooked rice pouch. The ingredient list on this one is oddly long. Check all of Uncle Ben’s packets; many contain palm oil, hydrogenated oil, sugar, corn syrup, and unknown ‘natural flavors.’ It also feels a bit greasy on the tongue.

5. It’s pretty obvious, right? Whole grain brown rice and I aren’t friends. It takes FOR-EV-ERRR (said in a Sandlot voice), and is perpetually either undercooked or burned. I know it’s economical, but it’s just not worth the waste of soggy or crunchy rice.