Saturday, April 30, 2011

#32 - Pasta alla Norma

We wanted to cook a new pasta, and we were over at Mamu and Nonno's house so we decided to look into a cookbook that we didn't have at home. We've used Giuliano Hazan's recipes before, but this was the first time we could use one of his mom's recipes.

Pasta alla Norma

From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
When we copied down the recipe, we didn't remember to write down what Marcella called it, but googling the ingredients, we found that it's a variation of a dish called Pasta alla Norma. Traditionally, that would use ricotta salata, but this version used a good old-fashioned wet ricotta.
After chopping the eggplant, the first step is to salt it, and let it sit for an hour. Then, you rinse them and squeeze out the liquid in a dish towel. If you plan on making this pasta, you might want to designate an eggplant wringing towel because the one we used got pretty dirty.
After draining the eggplant, you fry it (delicious), and then add it to a sauce (delicious), and toss it with the pasta and cheeses (delicious).
So how did it come out? You guessed it - delicious. Fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cheese can't be bad, but this did come together really well, and it went perfectly with spaghetti. Next time we want a classic Italian meal, we'll be borrowing that Marcella Hazan cookbook again.Here's you can make it yourself:
  • 1 eggplant
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, sliced very thin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and cut into strips without their juices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 3 Tbs freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 3 Tbs ricotta cheese
  • 8 to 10 basil leaves
  1. Peel the eggplant and cut into 1 1/2 inch thick cubes.
  2. Place the cubes in a colander, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and let them sit in the sink for at least 1 hour.
  3. After the hour, scoop up a handful of the cubes, rinse them in cold water, and then squeeze out all the moisture using a dish towel.
  4. Lay the eggplant cubes on a clean dry towel or paper towels.
  5. Pour enough vegetable oil into a large frying pan to come up 1/2 inch up the sides, and heat on medium-high.
  6. When the oil is hot, slip in as many of the eggplant cubes as can fit loosely in the pan, fry them until tender, and then remove to paper towels. Repeat as necessary until all the eggplant has cooked.
  7. Pour off the vegetable oil, and then add the olive oil and sliced onions.
  8. Cook over medium-high heat until the onions have become light gold.
  9. Add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds.
  10. Add the tomatoes, turn the heat to high, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  11. Add the eggplant, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for a minute or two.
  12. Taste the sauce, correct for salt, and add some freshly ground black pepper.
  13. Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water, strain, and toss with the eggplant sauce, the pecorino, the ricotta, and the basil.

Monday, April 18, 2011

#31 - Steak Fajitas

The only time we ever eat fajitas in when we go out, but we decided to change things up this time, and bring the flavors of Cactus Cantina home.

Steak Fajitas

From Simply Recipes
There were a lot of ingredients needed for this recipe, but it's a little misleading because most of them were for the marinade for the steak. Once you've got that made, it's pretty simple to get the rest of this meal going.
So once you have your marinade made, you cover the steaks with it, and you let it sit for a while. Before you cook them, though, you rub most of the marinade off, making you wonder what the point of it all was.
The recipe called for grilling the steaks and vegetables on a cast-iron skillet, but we didn't have one, so we used our grill instead. We think it came out just fine, but if you do this indoors at home, we suggest you open all your windows and doors or risk being smoked out.
These came out really good. The steaks had a nice flavor to them thanks to the marinade (despite it being unceremoniously removed). And the fajitas were extra tasty when we added some homemade salsita and guacamole. In short, we'll definitely make these again when we're craving Mexican food.
Here's how you can make them yourselves, so next time you're on Macomb, you can swing by 2 Amys instead.
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 fresh Jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lb of flat iron steak
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 2-3 bell peppers, sliced
  • Salt
  • Flour tortillas
  • Additional fix-ins, such as cheese, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole
  1. Mix the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, Jalapeño pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl to make the marinade for the steak.
  2. Coat the steaks with the marinade and let sit at room temperature for an hour, or longer in the refrigerator.
  3. After the steaks have been marinated, wipe off most of the liquid and sprinkle the steaks with salt.
  4. Set a large pan or griddle over high heat and let it heat up for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the vegetable oil and continue to heat for about a minute.
  6. Add the steaks, frying on each side for a little over 3 minutes.
  7. Remove the steaks from the pan and let sit, tented with foil.
  8. While the meat is resting, add the onions and bell peppers to the pan and let sear for one minute without stirring.
  9. Continue to stir every 90 seconds for 5-6 minutes total.
  10. Slice the meat at an angle against the grain into thin slices.
  11. Serve immediately on tortillas with fix-ins.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#30 - Spaghetti with Bacon and Arugula

After lunch, we still had some arugula left over, had no plans for dinner, and found this recipe online for a pasta with ingredients we had around the house.

Spaghetti with Bacon and Arugula

From TasteFood
Since it's Sunday and we had everything else around the house, we thought today would be a good day for making homemade pasta. That's what that little nest is in the middle of the picture.
After cooking the bacon, you toast the breadcrumbs in a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Don't worry if it seems like there's not enough grease in the pan; that's how it's supposed to be.
After getting the breadcrumbs ready, you make a simple cream sauce, mix everything together, and you're done.
Oooh. This was a delicious pasta. The arugula and the bacon went well together, the cream sauce was not too heavy, and our homemade pasta was a solid touch.

For being such a simple and tasty meal, we think we're going to make this again next time we have leftover arugula.
Here's how to make recipe #30:
  • 12 oz bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp salt, plus salt for pasta water
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 3 cups arugula
  1. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown, and then transfer to paper towels.
  2. Remove all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet, and add the breadcrumbs, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Saute until the breadcrumbs are golden, and then transfer to a small bowl.
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and throw the pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, in a clean saucepan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute.
  7. Add the cream and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened for about 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the cream.
  9. When the pasta is al dente, strain and toss with the cream sauce.
  10. Add the bacon, arugula, and half of the Parmigiano, and toss to combine.
  11. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the remaining Parmigiano over the pasta, and briefly toss.

#29 - Pesto Chicken Panino

You know about our KitchenAid, the pasta maker attachment, the ice cream maker attachment, the potato chip maker attachment, the hot chocolate machine, and the crock pot. Another piece of cookware that we love is our panino press. It takes grilled cheese sandwiches to the next level, and it helped us make these delicious panini.

Pesto Chicken Panino

A Hungry Hundred Original Recipe, Inspired by Harry's Tap Room
Harry's Tap Room is a great restaurant that has this crazy sandwich - it's a pesto chicken panino with mozzarella cheese. We decided to try something similar with our panino press, but we wanted to add arugula since we got some from our farmer yesterday morning.
You remember how to make the Villa pesto, right? Well, you can make some for this recipe and save the rest, or you can make some pasta and save a bit for this sandwich. But either way, you can store the extras in the freezer, and just heat it up before mixing it with the chicken.
So we just brush a little olive oil on the bread, layer it up, and then put the heavy press on top of the panini. It doesn't seem to matter how high the sandwiches pile up, once you add the big piece of metal, it transforms into a manageable size.
These panini came out really tasty. Dare we say, better than the original? The pesto went really well with the tomatoes and the arugula, and the ciabbata (which we may have cut a little bit thick) tasted great with the olive oil.
Wanna try your own? Do this.
  • 1 boneless chicken breast
  • 2 Tbs pesto sauce
  • 2 slices Ciabatta
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tomato, sliced
  • 1/4 cup arugula
  • 3 slices mozzarella cheese
  1. Grill the chicken breast and cut into small cubes.
  2. Toss the cubed chicken with the pesto to coat.
  3. Heat a panino press over medium heat.
  4. Brush one side of one slice of ciabbata with olive oil and place face down on the grill.
  5. Layer on top of the bread the pesto chicken, tomatoes, arugula, and mozzarella.
  6. Place the other slice of ciabbata on top of the sandwich and place press on top.
  7. When the bottom side is golden, brush the top piece with olive oil, and flip the panino.
  8. Replace the press on top, and cook until the second side is golden and the cheese has melted.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#28 - Pasta all'Arrabbiata

We've gone a while without making a new pasta, and so we decided to go with this one that we've eaten before (and liked) but haven't ever made for ourselves.

And since the Giada pasta wasn't so great, we went back to our old faithful, Giuliano Hazan.

Pasta all'Arrabbiata

From The Classic Pasta Cookbook
Since we're already known at our Giant as the pancetta people, that's an ingredient we've become accustomed to getting. What was new with this recipe was the Pecorino Romano cheese. Nonno likes to stink up the microwave with the stuff, but on its own (without Fritos) and in this pasta, it's actually pretty good.
Besides the tomatoes, olive oil, and basil, there's of course pancetta.
But what makes the arrabbiata sauce arrabbiata is the red pepper flakes. For just being a little heat, the red pepper flakes really make this dish great. It just adds another level to a tasty tomato sauce.
This is a perfect midweek meal. It's simple to make, doesn't take too much time, and is delicious. Add on to that, we now have tasty leftovers for lunches at work.
Here's what you have to do:
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 oz pancetta, cut into thin strips
  • 2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juices, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 12 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 Tbs freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. Put 1/3 cup olive oil and the garlic into a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle.
  2. Add the pancetta strips and cook until the pancetta is browned but not crisp.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, the red pepper flakes, and a little salt.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the oil, about 30-40 minutes, and then add the torn basil leaves.
  5. Cook pasta in salted boiling water, strain, and toss with the sauce.
  6. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the grated Pecorino.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#27 - Hot and Famous Omelet

When we go to the Tombs for breakfast, more often than not, Johnny goes for the Hot and Famous Omelet, the chili and cheese omelet that makes Emily sick to her stomach.

Needless to say, we only made one of these today.

Hot and Famous Omelet

A Hungry Hundred Original Recipe, Inspired by The Tombs
The main ingredient here is the chili. You only need a little bit, so don't go making a whole batch just for this omelet. But if you have chili, be sure to save some leftovers for brunch in the morning. And if you don't know how to make chili, make this one from Smitten Kitchen. It's simple and it's oh so tasty.
We've never used a scraper-type spatula to make an omelet before, but we found this advice online from Alton Brown, and we decided to try it out. It did help at keeping the edges from sticking and made it easier when it came time for folding it.
Once the eggs have set, you plop on some chili and cheese, and you're good to go.
We overcooked the eggs a tiny bit, but other than that, this omelet was just as god as the original. Johnny devoured the whole thing and was full for several hours, and Emily was content with scrambled eggs.
If you can't make it to 36th Street, do this:
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chili, warmed
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sour cream
  1. Beat the eggs, and add a splash of water, salt, and pepper.
  2. On medium low heat, melt enough butter to coat a small omelet pan.
  3. Add the eggs to the pan, and using a spatula, stir the eggs until a solid mass forms in the middle.
  4. Spread the eggs evenly in the pan, and continue outlining the edges so that it does not stick to the pan.
  5. Once the eggs have almost cooked through, place a strip of the chili in the middle of the omelet and top with cheese.
  6. Fold the omelet in thirds, and serve with sour cream.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#26 - Contractor's Cole Slaw

Today, we made two new things - the main dish, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, and this classic BBQ side dish, cole slaw.

Peppi and Kristen make a pretty good cole slaw, so we asked them for their recipe, and they told us it was actually from Chef Robert Irvine, Mr. Muscle Mouse himself.

Contractor's Cole Slaw

From Dinner: Impossible
Fresh cabbage, strangely colored carrots, ... looks like we got produce from Farmer Randy. We've never tried the cabbage before, but we have gotten the purple and red and yellow carrots in the past, and they're fun and tasty.
As she was peeling the carrots, Emily realized that her hands were turning red, as the purple carrots seemed to bleed a lot. As we continued making the cole slaw, we learned that those carrots not only turn fingers red, but they make cabbage pink.
We've used our food processor a lot before, but only using the standard attachment chopping things for pesto and the like. This was the first time we switched the blade to shred vegetables, and it made for a pretty, colorful bowl.
In the end, this was a great side for our barbecue sandwiches. The recipe makes a wee bit too much for a family of two, but it would be perfect side to bring to a cookout (which is where we first tasted it, remember?)
If you want to make your own cole slaw, follow these steps. Use purple carrots if you want yours to turn out pink.
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2 to 3 carrots
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Shred the cabbage and the carrots, and place in a large bowl.
  2. Make dressing by combining the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Toss the dressing into the cabbage and carrot mixture, and let chill.

#25 - Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

My mission: to find the best of the best. My objective: perfecting their signature dish. The plan of attack: I'm showing up to challenge them, but they don't know it.

I may win. I might even lose. It's anybody's game.
Last Christmas, Emily gave Johnny Bobby Flay's Throwdown!, the cookbook from the Food Network show where a super famous Iron Chef challenges local cooks to a competition and then loses.

The first meal we ever cooked in the crock pot was a pulled pork sandwich recipe that had practically zero prep time. The only problem was it called for a jar of store-bought barbecue sauce, and we could never find one that we really liked.

When we saw the Throwdown! cookbook had a recipe for barbecue sauce, and it wasn't Bobby's, but the winning recipe, we knew just what to do with it.

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Using Ed Mitchell's Barbecue Sauce
Ed Mitchell's barbecue sauce has about a million ingredients, and there were few that we didn't have at home. The craziest ingredient? Liquid smoke.
The hardest part of this recipe is measuring out all those ingredients for the barbecue sauce. After that, it's just mix, and plop in the crock pot.
These sandwiches were pretty good. They were definitely better than when we've used the store-bought barbecue sauces, but we don't feel they came out as good as they could be. Maybe it's the nature of crock pot pulled pork, or maybe we still need to find the perfect barbecue sauce.
Are you ready for a Throwdown?
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 lb boneless pork roast
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sandwich buns
  1. Combine the first 12 ingredients in a bowl to make the barbecue sauce.
  2. Season the pork with salt and pepper, and place in the crock pot.
  3. Pour in 2 cups of the barbecue sauce.
  4. Cook on your crock pot's lowest setting for the longest time.
  5. When it has finished, open the crock pot, and using two forks, shred apart the pork, mixing with the barbecue sauce.
  6. Place the pulled pork on a sandwich bun covered with mayonnaise.