Posted by: tinkande | May 17, 2011

Tabbouleh Salad

Mediterranean cuisine makes frequent appearances in the Me and My Roommate kitchen.  While we seem to be drawn to the bold and fresh flavors from that part of the world year round, my favorite time to enjoy them is during the warmer months.  Chock full of veggies and fresh herbs, and lightly and simply dressed, nothing says summer to me like a cool and refreshing tabbouleh salad.  Serve it with grilled meat on a stick, warm pita, and tangy tzatziki sauce, and you have yourself and ideal weeknight summertime dinner.  You can make this year round, but, as with so many things, it’s really best when the ingredients are at peak season: the juiciest tomatoes, crunchy cukes, and deep green parsley bulging from its pot on your back deck.

This salad was a wonderful accompaniment to that awesome grilled lamb that we made for Easter dinner, and I look forward to making it many more times this season.

Tabbouleh Salad

Source: Inspired by Eats Well with Others
Serves 4-6

2 cups water
1 cup bulgur
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and halved
1 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the bulgur, cover the pot, and turn off heat. Let the bulgar sit for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the dressing to the warm bulgar and toss to combine.  At this point I like to chill the bulgar in the fridge for a little bit (maybe thirty minutes or so.) It’s not necessary, but I prefer to put the salad together cooled.

To compile the salad, toss the dressed bulgur with the parsley, mint, scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, and feta.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Posted by: tinkande | May 13, 2011

Strawberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pastry cream has been on my list of things to make for quite some time now.  I have always had a certain soft spot for obsession with chocolate eclairs and cream puffs, and while I love the pat à choux dough, it’s always the pastry cream that I’m swooning over.  I finally had a chance to try my hand at this rich, creamy custard in this gorgeous strawberry tart.

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite natural foods store was selling organic strawberries for $1.99 a pound.  “Say whaaaa?”  Ridiculously cheap.  So, naturally, I stopped by one day after work to pick up a pound or two to enjoy over the weekend.  Well, when I got to the strawberry display, something must have taken me over – perhaps the strawberries’ intoxicating aroma, their bright rosy hue, or (more likely) the $1.99 price tag flashing like a neon sign in my head – because I walked outta there with a flat of them in my arms.  Oops.  I just couldn’t resist purchasing eight pounds of organic berries for $14.00!  Are you kidding me?  It would have been criminal for me to walk out of there with less than a flat of them.

As soon as I got home I started brainstorming about what I was going to make with my haul.  I prefer to eat most fruit in it’s raw form, untouched by sugar or heat, and strawberries are no exception.  In my opinion you just shouldn’t mess with a good thing, and raw strawberries are a very. good. thing.  I knew we’d have our fill of fresh berries while still having plenty left over to play around with, though, so I wasn’t worried.

I turned to this tart because it combined two of my favorite things – pastry cream and a whole pound (only seven more to go!) of  fresh sliced strawberries.  My favorite part of this dessert?  Extra custard left over after filling up my crust.  Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re gonna have to cut this tart talk short because I need to go eat the rest of it.  Someone hand me a spoon!

What are you making with your strawberries this season?

Strawberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream
Source: Adapted from Baking Illustrated via Annie’s Eats
*Just a head’s up: I made my tart dough and pastry cream one day ahead, which made this much less stressful and much more fun!

For the tart dough:
1 large egg yolk
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 pound organic strawberries, washed, hulled, and thinly sliced

To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Process briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.) Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan. Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  I rolled my rolling pin along the top of my tart pan to easily remove the excess.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights (or you can use some dried beans that your never going to use like I did.)  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  My tart got a little darker than I would have liked.  Next time I’ll only bake it for 5 minutes after removing the foil.

To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and bring it back up to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.  Try really hard not to eat all of the pastry cream before proceeding to the next step.

To assemble the tart, spread the cold pastry cream evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the berries on top of the pastry cream as desired.  Serve.

Posted by: tinkande | May 11, 2011

Chicken Panini with Apples and Chutney

We very rarely cook the same thing twice in one week around here. Sure, we enjoy leftovers regularly, but to actually cook the same exact thing two days in a row is very unusual…until now.  We scarfed these panini down so quickly that as soon as our plates were clean we turned to each other with wide eyes and said “let’s have these again tomorrow night.”

It was hard to decide which element of these melty hot sandwiches I loved the most: the cumin scented, buttery crust on the outside of the naan, the mango chutney, the soft and gooey cheese center, or just the happy marriage of all of the bold flavors in each bite. And the cheddar/apple combination? Amazing. Sharp cheddar cheese and apple slices were one of my favorite childhood snacks, so it’s no surprise that I still love them today! The original recipe called for roasted turkey (think Thanksgiving leftovers here people!), but we had some chicken deli meat that needed to be used up, so we used that instead. I think turkey would be great, as would some leftover roasted or grilled chicken.  You could definitely have fun with these – try different cheeses, see what you like.  But I warn you – you’re going to want to buy extra ingredients so you can make it again the next night.

Chicken Panini with Apples and Chutney
Source: Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine
Serves 4

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, or more if you like it cheesier (I do!)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Major Grey’s mango chutney
4 naan breads (we tried garlic and plain, and both were great)
12 ounces sliced cooked chicken or turkey breast
Half of a Fuji or Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
A few slices of red onion
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat a panini press according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, heat a nonstick grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat.

While the press is heating, combine the cheese and cilantro together in a small bowl. Spread the chutney on one half of each of the naan breads. Top the same half with a small amount of the cheese mixture. Then top that with the chicken, apple slices, and red onion. Finally, divide the remaining cheese mixture evenly among all four sandwiches. Fold the naan in half to cover the sandwich filling. Combine the melted butter with the cumin and brush it on the outsides of each sandwich.

Put the sandwiches on the panini press, pull the top down, and cook until browned and crisp, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on how hot your machine is. If using a grill pan or nonstick skillet, put a heavy pan (I use my cast iron skillet) on top of the sandwiches and cook, turning once. Carefully remove from the press and serve.

Posted by: tinkande | May 9, 2011

Easter Grilled Leg of Lamb

I don’t often get to cook with my mom. She lives a plane ride away, and although we talk (at length) about food during our regular phone chats, we rarely have the chance to get into the kitchen together. When my parents came to visit for Easter a few weeks ago, I had some vague plans for what I wanted to make while they were in town. Oh, who am I kidding? I had decided exactly what to make and had even printed out some recipes to be prepared. This marinated, grilled leg of lamb was on the menu for our Easter dinner, and it was one of the many dishes that my mom and I collaborated on over that weekend.

While I think mom and I each had to adjust to the idea of cooking with someone else (we’re used to cooking solo), we handled ourselves quite well. There was a (perhaps unhealthy) amount of discussion about the lamb – “where did you find the recipe?” “hmm, what do you think about subbing rosemary for the cilantro?” “Should I pull the meat off of the grill now, or does it need a few more minutes?” You see, my mom and I both share a – we’ll call it a quirk – called over-thinking. Incidentally, my roommate and my dad both managed to steer clear of the kitchen for the entire day. They knew what they’d be in for – my roommate once made the mistake of entering the kitchen on Thanksgiving when my mother, my sister and I were cooking and baking up a storm. He said that it felt like being caught in the eye of a hurricane, and he couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

And so, after my mom and I had made a proper mess in the kitchen on Easter Sunday, we all sat down to this lovely, refreshing grilled leg of lamb. Because it had marinated overnight, the meat was tender and juicy and delicately scented with herbs and spices. We paired it with a bright cous cous salad and plenty of red wine.  It was the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Leg of Lamb
Serves 6-8

1 cup loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cups mint leaves
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 cloves garlic
Zest of one lemon
1 Tablespoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground*
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 butterflied, boneless leg of lamb, about 3 pounds

To make the marinade, puree the rosemary, mint, yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, ground cumin seeds, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. Flatten out the butterflied leg of lamb and lay it into a baking dish. Pour the marinade over the leg of lamb, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Let the meat sit at room temperature while a grill heats to high, about 30 minutes. Lightly oil the grill grates and reduce the heat to medium. Wipe the excess marinade off of the lamb and grill until medium-rare, about 7 minutes per side (the internal temperature should be 145-150° F.) I used an instant-read thermometer to test mine and I pulled it off of the grill at 145°. It will continue to cook for a few minutes after removing from the grill. Slice the lamb thinly against the grain and serve.

*We toasted whole cumin seeds in a dry saute pan until fragrant. Then we ground them by hand with a mortar and pestle.

Source: I ripped this recipe out of a magazine years ago, but I can’t remember the name!

Posted by: tinkande | April 25, 2011

Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share this fabulous appetizer with you all.  As summer approaches I look forward to more gatherings and pot lucks with friends. I brought these fun lettuce wraps to a get together with some girlfriends a while ago, and they were a big hit.  I didn’t want anything too heavy, because I knew there would be a selection of other sweet and savory dishes to choose from, so these were the perfect thing.  They were packed with flavor, and the apple chunks added a surprising but welcome crunch.

At first, I was afraid that the ground chicken would get dried out, and I was thinking of making extra dipping sauce to go on the side.  However, I stayed true to the original recipe, and I’m glad I did because it was plenty saucy and delicious on its own.  I’m looking forward to making these again soon!

Asian Lettuce Cups with Ground Chicken
Source: Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

For the Sauce:
1-1/2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

For the Filling:
1 Tablespoon Canola or vegetable oil
2 scallions
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 pound ground chicken
2 cups mixed vegetables (frozen pea/carrots, finely diced bell peppers, etc.)
1/2 green apple, finely diced

For the Toppings and Wrap:
1 head boston bibb or butter lettuce, leaves washed and separated
2 medium carrots, shredded. I used my zesting tool to do this. You can also use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrot into paper thin strips. Then use a knife to further cut into very thin strands.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a wok on high heat. When oil is hot, add scallions, ginger and garlic and fry for a few seconds until fragrant. Add chicken and fry until almost cooked through. Add the vegetables and cook for one minute more.  Add sauce ingredients to the pan, and simmer for one minute to thicken slightly.

Finally, add the apples and toss to coat.  Immediately remove from the heat and serve in lettuce cups topped with shredded carrot.

Posted by: tinkande | April 23, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

This post is dedicated to my sister.  She’s a bit of a strawberry shortcake fanatic.

When we were growing up, our mother would always bake us the cake (or cupcake, or pie) of our choosing for our birthday (thanks, mom!).  Every year for as long as I can remember my sister chose something with strawberries, and it was usually this shortcake.  Her birthday is in June, which is peak strawberry season in Vermont. How could she resist their sweet temptation?

My birthday is in May, and we were lucky if the snow had melted by then (!).  Forget about having some beautifully vibrant, sweet, and juicy fruit to add to my birthday cake.  During a good year, a few daffodils may have popped up through the snow and my mom would use them to decorate my chocolate layer cake.

We’re starting to see these deep red and luscious berries already here in North Carolina, and pretty soon they’ll be seen everywhere, overflowing from their containers, just begging to be taken home in my grocery cart (or farmer’s market basket).  I thought it was only appropriate to kick off the season with a classic shortcake, and I turned to my mom’s tried and true version.  There are so many things to love about this recipe.

There is no need for a mixer – just a couple of bowls and a spatula.  Yay for simplicity!

The butter is melted meaning that I don’t need to remember to leave a stick of butter out to come to room temperature.  A seemingly simple task which, of course, I can’t master.

The texture is perfection: it’s light and fluffy yet solid enough to hold up to the strawberries and whipped cream, and it remains moist and tender for several days if kept in an airtight container.

You can prepare the entire cake by cutting it in half, filling it and topping it with strawberries and whipped cream, or you can do what we did and just cut pieces of the cake as you want them and prepare them to order.

Strawberry Shortcake
Source: Mom

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced (you should have about four cups of sliced berries)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, or more to taste

Butter an 8 x 8 pan, and preheat oven to 400 ° F. Gently toss the sliced berries with 1/2 cup of sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature until juicy.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl, mix together the milk, egg, and melted butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the liquid mixture, stirring gently until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to rest until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove it from the pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.

To serve, slice the cake in half with a serrated knife to create two layers. Cover the bottom layer with half of the berries and whipped cream. Repeat for the top layer, an enjoy!

Posted by: tinkande | April 10, 2011

Garlic Knots

We are able to buy great bread locally, and we usually satisfy our carb cravings that way.  Then I go and do something like make fresh bread at home, and we’re ruined.  I declare that I’m going to bake all of the time, but life gets in the way – or it gets really hot in the summertime and I don’t feel like baking myself along with the bread in my kitchen – and blah blah blah.  On the occasions that I DO take the time to bake bread, I enjoy every minute of the experience.  Its smell, the texture, and taste fresh out of the oven is unbeatable.

I made these pillows of garlicky goodness a while ago, but while sharing our favorite broccoli cheddar soup with you all last week, I thought of these. They would go perfectly alongside a bowl of that very soup.  But they will compliment many more things than soup, of course.  Pasta is a must.  I love to have something tasty to mop up my extra Marinara with.  And how about one of these babies with a salad for lunch?  Yes please!  How cool would it be to have a bag of these in the freezer ready to be warmed up and devoured on a random weeknight?  I should really get on that.  Sigh.

These rolls are soft and fluffy, delightfully garlicky (but not too much so), and anxiously awaiting a spot on the side of your dinner plate.  What are you waiting for?

Garlic Knots
Source:  Adapted from King Arthur Flour via Annie’s Eats.

For the dough:

3 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons lukewarm water

For the glaze:
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (I used dried oregano, thyme, and basil)

Place a baking stone into your oven and preheat it to 350° F. (See notes.)

To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the olive oil, milk and water. Mix until ingredients have formed a dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch long rope and tie into a knot. Take the end lying underneath the knot and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center. Take the end lying over the knot and tuck it underneath and into the center.

Transfer shaped rolls to a pizza peel lined with parchment paper. See notes. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy. To make the glaze, finely mince the garlic or press it through a garlic press. Mix with the melted butter and Italian seasoning. Brush the glaze onto the shaped rolls. Carefully transfer the rolls on their parchment paper from the pizza peel to the hot baking stone in the oven. Bake until set and lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

If you don’t have a baking stone: Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. After shaping the rolls, transfer them directly to the baking sheet. After rising for the final 45 minutes, transfer the baking sheet to the oven to bake the rolls.

If you don’t have a pizza peel: Place a baking stone into your oven and preheat it to 350° F. Prepare a baking sheet (with no edges) lined with parchment paper. After shaping the rolls, transfer them to the baking sheet. Then, after rising for the final 45 minutes, carefully transfer the rolls on their parchment paper form the baking sheet to the hot baking stone in the oven.

Posted by: tinkande | April 5, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Mother nature has been teasing us this spring.   A couple of weeks ago my roommate and I were sweating our butts off at a St. Patrick’s Day parade (I wasn’t complaining), but last week it was back to cooler temperatures.  And this week it’s going to be in the eighties again.  I suppose it was nice to feel like we got a true taste of spring weather rather than going straight from winter to summer, which is often the case where we live.  Cooler weather meant that we could still enjoy a few bowls of soup before the heat arrived, and this broccoli cheddar from Emeril is one of our favorites.  I’ve found his recipes to be very reliable in the past, so I was pretty sure I could trust this one, too.

If you’re looking for a “lighter” version of a cream of vegetable soup, then I’m definitely not your gal today.  This is pure decadence.  But I encourage you to enjoy every spoonful of rich cream, tangy cheddar cheese, and melted butter and not feel bad about it at all.  Why?  Because there is actually a generous amount of broccoli in this dish, making it beautifully deep green and very intensely flavored.  It’s almost seems like you’re eating a thick vegetable puree that’s been very well dressed up.  I’ll occasionally leave this slightly chunky for some texture, but more often I like to blend it into oblivion for a silky smooth bowl of comfort.  This soup is easy enough to throw together on a weeknight (even easier now that I have a stick blender, woot!), and we like it with a slice of warm, crusty bread.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Source: Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound broccoli florets, washed and trimmed or one 16-ounce bag of frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

In a medium sized pot, melt the 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock to the pot, whisking constantly, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook until very tender, for 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup with a hand-held immersion blender. (Alternatively, carefully puree it in batches in a blender or food processor and return to the pot.)

With the pot over low heat, add the cream and bring the soup to a bare simmer just to heat through. Add the cheese and cook over low heat, stirring, until melted. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons cold butter, stirring to blend.

Remove from the heat and serve.

Posted by: tinkande | April 2, 2011

Ziti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto

After eating this meal I decided that we don’t eat enough prosciutto in this house.  I love it, especially in my dad’s famous stuffed Italian peppers. But I always forget about it at the grocery store, and I rarely pick it up unless a recipe calls for it.  In this dish, the salty bits of dry-cured ham pair nicely with sweet, tender asparagus, and soft, smoky mozzarella cheese.  Oh, and are you all aware of the magic that is pasta cooking water?  Using just a bit of the starchy liquid can pull together a wonderfully silky sauce without it being at all watery.  Every time I use this method , I’m reminded of the satisfaction I feel when a vinaigrette finally emulsifies and when a mess of chopped chocolate and cream turns into a velvety, shiny bowl of chocolate ganache.  And in this case, cooking the pasta and the sauce together for a minute or so further infuses the flavors into the ziti making every bite worth it.

The whole time I was cooking this meal I kept checking my cookbook to make sure I hadn’t forgotten a step.  It took so little time and effort that I couldn’t believe we were going to be able to sit down for dinner in under thirty minutes.  I have happily added this recipe to my list of “we need dinner in a flash and we don’t want to do a lot of dishes” weeknight dinners.  Hmmm, those Italians could be onto something.

Ziti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto

Source: Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis

8 ounces dried ziti
1 pound asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 ounces smoked mozzarella, diced
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
3 Tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti and cook for five minutes, stirring often. Add the asparagus to the same pot, and cook until the pasta is al dente and the asparagus is crisp-tender, about two more minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and drain the pasta and asparagus.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the pasta, asparagus, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking liquid, and toss to coat. Note: the recipe recommended using a whole cup of cooking liquid. I tried half a cup first and was happy with the consistency, so I didn’t end up using the full cup. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, and basil and combine. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if desired. Since prosciutto is delightfully salty on its own, I found it unnecessary to add any more salt.

Posted by: tinkande | March 22, 2011

Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri

My roommate studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina when he was in college. While there, he studied partied hard, explored the city, traveled around Argentina and Uruguay, learned how to tango, and got his fill of the local cuisine. One of his many favorite foods there included chimichurri sauce. It was a standard condiment on every table, and the Argentines put it on everything. It goes especially well with a perfectly grilled steak and a glass of hearty malbec.

I wanted to find a chimichurri sauce recipe that would be as close as possible to the authentic version that my roommate enjoyed so much while he was in South America. I came across a promising version on one of my favorite blogs, Use Real Butter.  Success!  My roommate said that it was as close to the real thing as anything else he’s tried since leaving the southern hemisphere. We both agreed, however, that it was a little too garlicky and spicy for us. We can usually put down some serious garlic, so maybe we were just feeling weak that night.  Either way, next time I will dial it down a notch.

We served this alongside this amazing Blue Cheese Macaroni & Cheese and some simply blanched broccoli.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri
1 flat iron steak, about 1 1/2-2 pounds and 1 1/2-2 inches thick
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat for ten minutes. Meanwhile, rub both sides of the steak with olive oil, and season it with salt and pepper. When the grill is hot, reduce the heat to medium-high heat. Grill the steak for five minutes on each side for medium rare doneness.  Remove it to a cutting board, cover with foil, and allow it to rest for ten minutes.  Slice the meat thinly against the grain and serve topped with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce
Source: Use Real Butter
Yield: 1 cup

10 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 cups flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Combine the garlic, parsley, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and the vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 2-3 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator after using. I suspect it would freeze well like a pesto as well, though I have not tried this myself.

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