Carbonara


We’ve put off trying this recipe for a while because it seemed complicated. That couldn’t be further from the truth! It was really very easy, though a bit temperamental. The original post cites Rachel Ray as the original creator as published in Woman’s Day magazine.

Ingredients:
1 box spaghetti (about a pound)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta, roughly chopped (we ended up using about 3 ounces because that’s what came in the package)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (we used a pinot grigio)
3 large egg yolks
freshly grated Romano cheese (optional, but J swears it’s better with the cheese. Parmesan works too in a pinch)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (you’ll want to use more pepper than salt!)

Directions:
Boil the pasta according to the package directions in salted water. (You will need to reserve at least a cup of the pasta water for use later in the recipe!) While the pasta is boiling, heat a large skillet over medium heat (you;ll be adding the pasta to the skillet). Add the olive oil and pancetta to the warmed skillet. Brown  the pancetta for about two minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for up to three more minutes (remove or turn down the heat if the pancetta starts to burn). Add the wine and deglaze the pan. In a separate  bowl, beat the egg yolks and add 1/2 cup of the pasta water. According to the original recipe, adding the pasta water to the yolks tempers them so they don’t scramble. If you haven’t already drained the pasta, do so now. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss to coat the pasta. Don’t cook the egg! Remove from heat. Add cheese, pepper and salt. Continue tossing the pasta until the egg mixture thickens and the pasta absorbs most of it. Serve immediately with extra cheese.

My opinion:
Salty and creamy, this is the perfect dinner for a fall evening. If you find the dish too salty, cut back on the added salt at the end. When reheating, make sure to use a little olive oil or reheat by covering the bottom of a pan with chicken stock or broth and adding the pasta. Otherwise, it dries out.

Advertisements

Vietnamese Spring Rolls


Perfect for a hot summer night’s dinner. Not to mention, these weren’t as hard as I always thought they were!

Ingredients:
2 ounces rice vermicelli
package small shrimp; cooked – peeled, deveined
1 cup fresh bean sprouts (or canned if you can’t find fresh)
6 green onions (green parts)
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves; chopped chiffonade style
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro; chopped chiffonade style
2 leaves lettuce; chopped
8.5 inch rice wrappers

Hoison Peanut sauce:
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves; crushed
1 Thai chili; minced, or more for desired spiciness (we just used Sriracha sauce)

Directions:
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli according to the package directions (or 3 to 5 minutes until al dente) and drain. While waiting for vermicelli to cook, combine the onions mint and cilantro into a bowl. Fill a large bowl with warm water (warm, not boiling and not steaming). Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften (you may have to swish it around a bit). Lay wrapper flat (you may have to pull it apart if it sticks to itself). In a row across the center, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, lettuce and the herb mixture, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce (like a burrito). Repeat with remaining ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce ingredients to taste and top with chopped peanuts if desired.

My Opinion:
This recipe makes more than enough for three hungry people to have four very stuffed spring rolls.

Shrimp Paesano

Note: this isn't the best photo. The shrimp is really closer to golden brown than burned. Promise. I was just too hungry to wait to take a better photo.

When J and I lived in San Antonio, we used to love to eat in Paesanos outdoor dining room. Especially in the middle of “winter” when they had the heat lamps going and the sunsets were amazing. We often ordered their signature dish, Shrimp Paesano (first dish on the link), which is amazing. Unfortunately, when we left from San Antonio, we couldn’t find a restaurant with similar flair in Columbia. After much trial and error, J finally recreated the dish for our recent anniversary after stumbling across this recipe online. It’s been about four years since I’ve eaten the real dish, but this recreation was so close I could almost see the beautiful sunset view.

Shrimp Ingredients:
2 pints half-and-half cream
salt & pepper , to taste
1 lb jumbo shrimp, about 20,  peeled, deveined, tails left on (We actually removed them for easier eating)
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sauce Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 ½ cups butter, cold, cut into 1 inch pieces (cold is the key!)
1 medium lemon, juiced
4 garlic cloves , minced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

Shrimp Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 400º F. Soak shrimp in half and half for at least 30 minutes. Drain shrimp and dust lightly in flour. Sauté shrimp in vegetable oil for 5 minutes on one side in a medium-high skillet. Do not let the shrimp burn.  You will have to do in batches so that you do not overcrowd. Do not turn shrimp. Remove shrimp and place in a baking dish, sautéd side down, and place in pre-heated oven. Turn to BROIL and broil for 5 minutes.

Sauce Direction:
Mix egg yolk and lemon juice in half the butter in a sauce pan and stir over low heat until butter is melted; take off heat. Add garlic and remaining butter and return pan to heat. Stir briskly until butter melts and sauce thickens. (Add a small amount of half and half to thicken if you like.) Add chives and parsley (we were out). Pool sauce in plates and top with linguini and shrimp. Serve immediately.

My Opinion:
As mentioned above, I love this dish. It’s the perfect meal. Light and heavy at the same time. The sauce is decadent and delicious with bread. J makes a lot of great dishes, but this one is about perfect.

Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta


If you told me 10 years ago, I’d be eating squash, I would never believe you. But I am! And I’m loving it! I had no idea these fall vegetables could taste so lovely! I’m always looking for new recipes and when a friend recommended this Self Magazine butternut squash recipe, I jumped at the chance to try it. It was super easy (once I figured out how to cut the squash) and very filling.

Ingredients:
8 oz whole-wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves (Do not substitute dried, it doesn’t taste the same!)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (it’s ok to omit this, but it does enhance the flavors)

Directions:
Cook penne as directed on package (we used spaghetti because we were out of penne, it worked just as well!). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry sage, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes (this took about 10 minutes for us). Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add squash mixture; stir over low heat, adding some reserved cooking water if necessary, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and sage.

My Opinion:
I didn’t expect this simple dish to be as flavorful and wonderful as it was. The only two changes I’ll make are to add more onion and garlic. A great late fall early winter dish. Not to mention a wonderful introduction to the world of butternut squash. What new vegetable should we try next? Parsnips?

Chicken and Zucchini Bow Tie Pasta


The zucchini at the Farmer’s Market is HUGE. So much that we needed a dish where this was the main component. Luckily, we found this Rachel Ray dish from her 365 No Repeats. With a few modifications, it was super easy to make, filling and a nice end of summer dish.

Ingredients:
1 pound bow-tie pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for the chicken.
6 garlic cloves, minced (we used more)
2 medium zucchini, diced (we used one HUGE zucchini instead)
Coarse black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (we omitted this)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or shredded, about 20 leaves (we used dried and added a few more Italian seasonings, like fresh oregano)
2 chicken breasts, diced

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. While waiting for the water to boil, cook the chicken breasts in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Turn heat to medium low. Add the rest of the olive oil and the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and additional seasonings. Drain the pasta and add to the zucchini, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the cooking water. Turn heat to low. Toss for 2 minutes, until the liquids are absorbed.

My opinion:
Next time we’ll add more garlic and some red pepper flakes. Maybe a few more vegetables. Good additions would include broccoli, onion, peas, and more.