Thursday, February 21, 2013

Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs

Absolutely scrumptious. Wonderful for a cold night and/or a potluck.

Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

For the meatballs:
1/4 cup milk
1 slice good white bread trimmed of its crust
1 pound ground pork (or beef, or lamb, or a mix of the three)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)
1 egg
Black pepper in a grinder
1 cup flour, spread on a plate
Vegetable oil for frying

For the bèchamel:
4 1/2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To finish:
1 pound rigatoni
3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup milk

Make the meatballs: Heat the milk, but don’t let it simmer. Tear pieces of the white bread into it and let it soak for 5 minutes, before picking it up with your hand, squeezing it of excess milk and putting it in a large mixing bowl.

Add the pork, garlic, parsley, grated cheese, egg, salt, and pepper. Combine all the ingredients with a fork until they are evenly mixed (or “amalgamated”, as Hazan so charmingly says).

Pinch off a small lump of meat, about the size of a raspberry and roll the lump into a ball in the palm of your hands. (Hazan says if you are good with your hands, you can try making 3 balls at a time. It turns out, I am not.) When all the meatballs have been shaped (a process that took less time than I had expected, just the same), roll them in the flour, 15 to 20 at a time. Place the floured meatballs in a strainer and shake it smartly to dispose of excess flour.

Put enough vegetable oil in a skillet to rise 1/4-inch up the sides of the pan and turn on the heat to medium high. When the oil is hot, put as many meatballs in the skillet as will fit without overcrowding. Brown them until they form a nice crust all around. When one batch is done, transfer it with a slotted spoon to a platter covered with paper towels to drain and do the next batch until all are done.

Make the bèchamel: Heat the milk over low heat in a saucepan until it forms a ring of pearly bubbles, but do not let it break into a boil. In a larger saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or flat whisk until combined. Add 2 tablespoons of milk at a time to the flour and butter mixture, stirring steadily and thoroughly, then repeat through 8 additions. At this point, you can add the milk in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly to keep it smooth. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir the sauce until it thickens.

Assemble the dish: Cook the rigatoni in a pot of well salted water. Drain when still al dente, and combine immediately in bowl with two-thirds of the bèchamel, half the grated cheese, and all the meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heavily butter a 9×13 baking dish. (Original recipe calls for a 12-inch springform, which I am sure would be lovely but is not the commonest U.S. cake pan.) Spread the rigatoni and meatball mixture in the pan, leveling it off with a spatula. Pour the milk over the dish, the spread the rest of bèchamel on top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.

Place in the uppermost level of the preheated oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a golden brown crust forms on top.

Spiced Couscous and Chicken

This was lovely. Yum.

Spiced Couscous and Chicken
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup couscous, preferably whole wheat
2 cups coarsely shredded rotisserie chicken
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
Greek yogurt and/or harissa or other hot sauce, for topping

Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the ginger, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the carrots and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the carrots, reserving the cooking liquid.

Put the couscous and chicken in a medium bowl; pour 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid on top. Stir, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds, raisins, scallions and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until the nuts are toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.

Divide the couscous and chicken among bowls. Top with the carrots and more of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle with the almond mixture and more cilantro. Top with yogurt and/or harissa.

Chicken Enchiladas

Pretty good. I couldn't find salsa verde though, so I'd be interested to try it again once I can.

Chicken Enchiladas
Courtesy of Cooking Light

4 cups cold water
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
5 garlic cloves, crushed 
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves 
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped 
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 jalapeno pepper, halved
1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges 
1 (7-ounce) can salsa verde
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup chopped seeded tomato 
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened 
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cooking spray 
1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/4 cup)

Combine first 9 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 8 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; let stand 10 minutes. Shred the chicken, and set aside. Drain cooking liquid through a sieve over a bowl; reserve cooking liquid. Discard solids.

Combine reserved cooking liquid and salsa verde in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups (about 30 minutes). Reduce heat to low; stir in whipping cream. Place pan over low heat.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients (through cream cheese) to chicken; toss. Dip each tortilla in sauce mixture for 10 seconds. Fill each tortilla with about 1/3 cup chicken mixture; roll up. Arrange filled tortillas, seam side down, in an 11 x 7–inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon sauce over tortillas; top evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Mexican Chorizo and Sweet Potato Soup

I wanted more from this soup. It wasn't bad, per say, but it needed something.

Mexican Chorizo and Sweet Potato Soup
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
3/4 pound fresh chorizo or other spicy sausage, casings removed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach
Juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, halved, pitted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the tortilla strips with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on a baking sheet, spread in a single layer and bake until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cumin and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the sweet potato, chicken broth, tomatoes and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the sweet potato is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the spinach and lime juice and season with salt. Divide among bowls and top with the tortilla strips, cilantro and avocado.

Tofu-Vegetable Stir-Fry

Not bad. I think it could use more spice though. Maybe a tiny bit more Sriracha?

Tofu-Vegetable Stir-Fry
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

1 cup white or jasmine rice
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Asian chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced (white and green parts separated)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
4 ounces snow peas
1 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes

Cook the rice as the label directs. Meanwhile, whisk the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, chile sauce, cornstarch and 1 cup water in a small bowl until smooth; set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites, garlic and ginger and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry until golden brown and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and stir-fry 30 more seconds.

Whisk the reserved soy sauce mixture and add it to the wok. Bring to a simmer, then add the tofu. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the scallion greens.

Fluff the rice with a fork and divide among bowls. Top with the stir-fry and sauce.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cheesy Corn Cakes with Spicy Avocado Salsa

So good. Pretty easy too, as long as you can get perfectly ripe avocados. Which, as we all know, happens in about a 10-minute time frame.

Cheesy Corn Cakes with Spicy Avocado Salsa
Courtesy of Simply Delicious

For cakes:
2 cups corn
14.11-oz can creamed corn
2 eggs
1½ cups grated cheddar
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup milk

For the spicy avocado salsa:
2 avocados, chopped
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you don’t like it hot)
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh coriander, to serve

In a large bowl, combine the corn kernels, creamed corn, eggs, cheddar, smoked paprika and salt and mix well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well. Slowly stir in the milk until the batter is not too thick and drops off a spoon easily. (It should also not be so thin that it spreads too much when you fry the cakes.)

Heat a large frying pan and add some oil. Fry spoonfuls of the batter until bubbles appear at the top and flip. Allow to cook on the other side. Remove from the pan once cooked and place on some kitchen paper to drain.

In the meantime, combine all the ingredients for the salsa and mix well.

When all the cakes have been cooked, serve them with the salsa, extra lemon wedges and fresh coriander.

Thai Pork and Noodles

I enjoyed the flavors in this, but I didn't like the texture of the pork. If I could figure out how to make it more moist and less chewy... It's had the same texture as my failed pork chops, so maybe I'll just stick to tenderloins and roasts and skip any other variations? Hrmph.

Thai Pork and Noodles
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

1 pound thin boneless pork chops, fat trimmed
8 ounces wide Thai rice noodles
1 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 slices peeled ginger
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 red jalapeno peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 pound green beans, split lengthwise and cut into pieces

Place the pork in the freezer about 10 minutes to make it easier to slice. Soak the noodles in very hot water until just tender, about 10 minutes; drain. Snip the noodles with scissors into shorter lengths. Cut the frozen pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

Puree the cilantro, lime zest and juice, ginger, garlic, jalapenos, shallots, fish sauce, brown sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a food processor until smooth, scraping down the processor as needed.

Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add half the cilantro mixture and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the pork and stir-fry until no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pork with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the skillet; add the green beans and stir-fry until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the noodles, pork and 2 tablespoons of the remaining cilantro mixture. Cook, tossing with tongs, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining cilantro mixture to taste.