Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lidia's Spaghetti in Tomato Apple Sauce

The new cookbook arrived in the midst of apple picking season, so the recipe for Spaghetti in Tomato Apple caught my eye right away. Now, apples cooked with tomatoes to make a pasta sauce does sound a bit strange at first. No offense to us bloggers, but if I came across the idea on an unknown blog I'd just chuckle and pass on by. But when I saw it featured in Lidia's Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrees, I had to give it a closer look. Lidia explains that this combination is common in the apple laden Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. That was good enough for me, and I'm glad I gave it a try! This is a refreshing tomato sauce with a nice bright taste. The apple flavor is not distinctive but rather contributes to the overall impression that this is something other than your typical pasta sauce. This follows Lidia's recipe almost exactly, with a slight reduction in the celery called for; and the wording of the instructions slightly tweaked.

an unlikely combo!
3 cups canned tomatoes, San Marzano recommended
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium celery stalk, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb tart green apple, like Granny Smith
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Pour 4 tbsp olive oil into a skillet on medium heat. Add the celery and onion to the pan. Cook until the onions begin to soften and caramelize, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the pureed tomatoes, season with a bit of salt. As the tomatoes begin to simmer, peel and core the apples, removing seeds. Shred the apples, using coarse holes of a shredder or grater.

When the tomatoes have cooked about 5 minutes, stir the apples into the sauce. Bring the skillet back to simmer, and cook the sauce uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring a bit here and there, until it has begun to thinkcn and the apple shreds are cooked and tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, drop in the spaghetti, and cook it until al dente. Strain the pasta and combine with the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce for a minute or two, until it is thoroughly coated and cooked just right. Turn off heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss well. Serve the pasta immediately, passing extra cheese at the table.

Wine pairing: Though I failed to note or tweet the wine we had with this dish when I made it a couple of weeks ago, I seem to recall having a Dolcetto and it working pretty well. Though that puts you in the same country as Alto Adige, I'm thinking a wine from the region would be nice. It so happens last night we had a red from Alto Adige, a 2010 Muri-Gries Alto Adige Santa Maddalena. This is a blend of the local grapes Schiavae and Lagrein. It has a light, fresh quality to it that I think would work with the dish. I didn't test the pairing yet so can't vouch for it! Let me know if you try this or another pairing that works.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of the book. My adventures with the recipes and opinions of my book are fully my own!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Penne with Roasted Cauliflower, Garlic and Fennel

Steamed cauliflower is OK, but I really like the caramelized flavor it takes on when roasted. Combined here with roasted garlic and fennel, this dish has a deep, satisfying quality perfect for a fall evening. It also boasts a creamy texture with just a modest amount of cheese. See the notes below for some shortcuts.

1 small bulb fennel or 1/2 a larger one, chopped
1 medium cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried sage (or tbsp fresh if you have it!)
1/2 cup chicken broth (veggie broth or white wine would work, too and keep this as a vegetarian dish)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
Salt & pepper to taste
onion, chopped*
half yellow bell pepper, chopped
cup red cabbage, chopped
1/4 homemade breadcrumbs or toasted walnuts
1 lb penne
garlic ready to roast!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To get the garlic ready for roasting, cut off about 1/2 inch from the bottom (root end) of the garlic, keeping the skin on but exposing a bit of the garlic cloves. Place on top of a sheet of aluminum foil drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the garlic snugly with the oil and place in the oven.

Next, toss the fennel with some olive oil (about 1/2 tbsp) in a roasting pan, and get it roasting for 5 minutes. Take the pan out, add the cauliflower with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, and toss together. Put the pan back in the oven, letting it roast for 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, start a pan of water boiling for the pasta. Start cooking it according to package instructions when there's about 10 minutes left for the veggie roasting time.

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a skillet on medium heat, then begin sauteeing the onion. After it begins to soften, add the pepper, followed by the cabbage a few minutes later. Saute for about 5 more minutes, letting the cabbage just being to soften.

The roasted vegetables are done when they have started to nicely brown and soften a bit. When done, remove from oven and let cool slightly for a few minutes. Scoop the veggies into a food processor, scraping out bits that might be sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add a tbsp of the olive oil along with the chicken broth or other liquid of your choice. Puree until the vegetables have achieved a fairly event consistency.

When the pasta is cooked, drain, and stir in the pureed roasted veggies. Then add the onion and cabbage mixture, followed by the cheese and breadcrumbs. Serve and enjoy!

*Notes: I did the onion/cabbage saute largely to add a little color to the dish; plus, I have a lot of cabbage on hand. The flavor here really comes from the roasted cauliflower puree, so you could easily skip the saute portion. I also roasted some kohlabri and tossed into the dish. It was a bit too hard to puree so I left in chunks. It was OK and if you happened to be looking to use some up, give it a try--but it didn't add too much to the flavor.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicken Sausage Jambalaya with Shrimp

Jambalaya! Love the sound of that, don't you? I haven't had too much experience cooking with shrimp. Friday's upcoming One Day Sale on shrimp at Whole Foods Woburn seemed like a good time to try something new. The deal is that on October 19, the price on on 31/40 count cooked shrimp will be 6.99/lb, discounted from $14.99- that's more than half price if you're keeping track at home! This shrimp sale is Whole Foods wide, as described here on their website--you might want to double check your local market confirm that they are offering it. I was looking to try out a recipe with some good spice involved, and this Chicken Sausage Jambalaya with Shrimp adopted from the Whole Foods blog looked like just the thing. If you click through to the Whole Foods site and look at the nutritional info, you'll see the use of chicken sausage and shrimp make this a healthy meal. I followed their recipe with just a few minor adjustments.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 packages pre-cooked spicy Italian chicken sausage (I used Palermo Brand Original Brat Hans)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste (I did about 2/3 so that our 7 y.o. would stand a better chance of being able to eat it!)
1 (1-pound) bag frozen okra
1 lb. pre-cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
Hot sauce for serving

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat. Add sausage and cook until lightly browned. Remove from pot and set aside. Slice sausages diagonally when they have cooled. This is a good time to point out the importance of getting a good quality sausage for dish like this where they play a central role. I'm typing as I cook, for now I'll simply say the ones I used smell great!.(post-meal: yep, the sausages are pretty tasty!).

Stirring up the Jambalaya!
Add remaining oil, celery, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cook until softened. Stir in tomatoes, broth, water, rice, thyme, salt and cayenne. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 35 minutes, stirring now and then. Add frozen okra and reserved sausage. Cook on medium heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until rice is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add shrimp and continue cooking until heated through. The sale shrimp I was using were pre-cooked and not frozen when I got them, so 10 minutes was plenty to heat them and absorb the flavors.  The original Whole Foods recipe called for frozen, presumably the frozen shrimp would then just need a bit more time after you add them. Taste and season with more salt or cayenne if desired. With 2/3 tsp of cayenne, the dish had plenty of vibrant flavor, but wasn't the adult's palates, at least!

Wine Pairing: Anticipating some heat in the dish, I asked Ray at Pairings for a suggestion. He pointed me in the direction of one of his favorites to go with Thai Food, the 2009 Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer ($19). I got honeysuckle on the nose, and taste of honey and a bit of lemon. Good mouthfeel--especially after a bite of Jambalaya! A good pairing.

Full disclosure: Whole Foods Woburn provided me with the ingredients for the meal to help spread word about the special. I chose the recipe, and the results are fully my own!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lidia's Swiss Chard Potatoes

I've tried and enjoyed a recipe or two from Lidia Bastianich before, so I jumped on the opportunity to test out her new cookbook,Lidia's Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrees. I had some potatoes on hand via the CSA and Swiss chard was on sale. So I thought this Swiss Chard Potatoes would be a good starting point for trying the book. And if it came out well, I'd have a new healthy side dish in my repertoire!

2 lbs Swiss chard, thick stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped*
About 1 1/4 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered (Lydia calls for Idaho potates, I used smaller yellow potatoes with good results)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes, cook for 20 minutes or so, until tender. Now here Lydia says to add the Swiss chard stems, which which she has you thinly slice and add after the potatoes have been on for 20 minutes. (*I missed this step and put the stems into my stock bag. I suspect it would add some additional texture to the dish). Cook the stems for 10 minutes, then add the chard leaves for another 5 minutes. Drain in colander.

Heat 2 tbsps of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, cook about 1 minutes until it begins to brown. Add the chard and potatoes, season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and gradually mashing the potatoes, until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are coarsely chopped. Add the remaining 2 tbsps of olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, stir and serve.

This dish was a nice change of pace to serve with our roast beef! Similar consistency to regular mashed potatoes, but loaded with plenty of healthy chard too. I will keep this on in mind for when chard rolls in via the CSA. Stay tuned for more recipe's from Lidia's latest book!

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of the book. My adventures with the recipes and opinions of my book are fully my own!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Linguine with Red Cabbage and a Dolcetto

A lot of cabbage can roll in via the CSA, so this Food & Wine recipe for Linguine with Red Cabbage caught my eye. This could prove a welcome relief from red cabbage salads and slaws. The recipe is quite simple basically you saute onions, garlic and then the red cabbage together until the cabbage is tender. Then toss with linguine and a healthy dose of feta and you have simple, tasty dish. Click through to the recipe link for full details.

I often go in my own direction in terms of wine pairings, but this time, I followed their suggestion of serving it with a Dolcetto.  For the uninitiated, Dolcetto is a red wine grape common in the Piedmont region of Italy. Tends to be moderately priced; it was recommended for its fruity, low tannic qualities to match the cabbage. It so happened, Ray and Lori had just returned to Pairings from a "research" trip to Italy, where Anna Maria Abbono was one of the wineries they visited. They carry one of her Dolcettos, so I went with that Anna Maria Abbono Langhe Docletto for this dish. The choice of Dolcetto, and this bottle in particular, was spot on! The wine was fruit forward and very pleasant to sip along with the tasty dish. Try it for yourself!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Simple Side: Stir-fried Bok Choy

I enjoy bok choy, though I don't have it all that much. So I was pleased when it appeared in the week's CSA box. I like the way the whole plant is edible. If you're not familiar, the leafy green part has a quality similar to other greens. Unlike greens like kale, where the stem is much too tough to eat, the bok choy stem is tender enough to enjoy. Using it all together, you get a nice crunch from the stem to add texture to the dish. So I often add bok choy to a main course stir fry. But this time, I combined it with just a few other ingredients as a separate side. The delicate bok choy absorbs the flavors of the sauce nicely.

For the stir-fry
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
big bunch bok choy, greens and stem, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp canola oil (or similar oil good for high heat)

For the sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced

Optional: top with toasted almond slices

Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or large, deep skillet to medium high. Stir-fry the bell pepper for 2 to 3 minutes until it begins to soften. Stir in the bok choy in a few batches, letting it start to wilt a bit to create more room in the pan. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until the greens have begun to wilt. Reduce heat to low, stir in the sauce, and let cook that way for a minute or so to let the flavors meld. Remove from heat and serve, adding the almonds on top of each serving if desired.

I served this over couscous along with baked parmesan crusted chicken breasts. We had a Spanish white wine called Casamaro, a blend of the local grapes Verdejo and Viura. With grapefruit on the nose and a citrusy crisp taste, it makes for a nice stir-fry pairing.