CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH HOISIN-GRILLED CHICKEN & SOBA NOODLES

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I adore soba noodles. Whenever I serve them, the meal feels special to me.  For this dinner, I used green tea soba noodles, immediately kicking things up a notch (remember Emeril from the old days of FoodTV?).  Green tea soba has a nice color that fades just a little during cooking. Of course, you can use any type of noodles, including whole-wheat, if soba is not available where you live.  The whole menu came from the latest Cooking Light issue, which is full of great recipes, by the way.  The hardest part of the preparation was cutting the sugar snap peas, but other than that, very fast from beginning to end, making it ideal to celebrate that evening still a bit far from the joys of the weekend…  ;-)

HOISIN-GRILLED CHICKEN WITH SOBA NOODLES
(adapted from Cooking Light June 2013)

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 + 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
3  skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
salt
green tea soba noodles (or regular soba)
1 + 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
toasted sesame seeds to taste
sliced green onions, to taste

Combine hoisin, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and five-spice powder in a large bowl.  Add chicken; toss to coat.  Grill for 10 minutes or until done, flipping the pieces half-way through cooking time.  Remove from the grill, let it stand for 5 minutes tented with aluminum foil.  Thinly slice across the grain.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Prepare the dressing for the noodles by mixing rice vinegar, sesame oil,  soy sauce, and Sriracha in a small bowl. Reserve.

Add noodles to the boiling water; cook for about 4 minutes.  Add peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are tender. Drain. Add reserved dressing to the noodles & peas mixture.  Toss to coat. Arrange noodles on a serving plate,  top with chicken slices.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients
Comments:  The recipe calls for cooking the sugar snap peas in the same pot with the noodles.  It is a nice thought to simplify things and avoid having two pots of water boiling, but next time I will cook them separately. It will be easier to assemble the dish, tossing noodles with dressing, then adding the snap peas and mixing them gently.   I like sugar snap peas barely cooked, almost blanched, to retain their bright color and bite.   Leftovers next day  were still very tasty, but just a minute in the microwave turned the peas into a sad dark green, dangerously pointing towards the gray.  Delicate creatures they are!

I served cucumber salad as a side dish, as suggested in Cooking Light. The recipe is on the link I provided.  You may notice I omitted the peanuts.  Cucumbers have been a constant side dish these days. They are simply perfect for this weather.  ;-)

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Manhattan Project

TWO YEARS AGO: Carrot “Nib” Orzo

THREE YEARS AGOA Sticky Situation

FOUR YEARS AGO:  The Garden

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PENNE WITH TRAPANESE PESTO

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Not sure how we made it so fast to the end of May, but here we are!  And the last Monday of the month brings with it the Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club.  Bloggers are paired in secret, stalk each other’s site for a nice recipe, and blog about it on the same day.  This month I was paired with Erin, from The Spiffy Cookie.  She is a graduate student working on her PhD in Microbiology and that immediately puts us both in a similar page.  Granted, I probably had my PhD before she was born, but still… I know what it takes and how frustrating it can be to get there.   As I always say to the students in the lab, “science is not for sissies“.  But, I digress.   I spent quite a bit of time on her site, tempted by many of her recipes. A few examples for you:  Chicken Burgers with Garlic & Rosemary Yogurt, Apple Oatmeal Breakfast MuffinsNutella Mousse (that almost made my final cut), and Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread Snack Cake (do I need to say anything more?).  But, in the end, my heart was set on Penne with Trapanese Pesto, because it seemed like the type of recipe Phil and I would love.  Plus, the almonds in the sauce take me to a Persian aura that is quite welcome in our kitchen these days. So, without further ado, my contribution to the SRC this month…

Sally(photo kindly optimized by an angel called Sawsan…)

PENNE WITH TRAPANESE PESTO
(slightly adapted from The Spiffy Cookie)

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup almonds, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
12 basil leaves
1-2 anchovies filets (or to taste)
2 tsp capers
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, anchovies, capers, crushed red pepper, cheese, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to get it going. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Taste it. Add a little more salt if needed.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pot.  Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss to combine.  Store whatever is left in a sealed container in the fridge for a week. Serve  with more cheese and basil.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients
Comments: I made two small modifications in the recipe, adding capers and anchovies to the pesto. Now, for those who personally know me, it will be shocking to learn I added anchovies were anchovies were not called for.  Yes, indeed, I don’t like anchovies, but have been working on improving our relationship.  For one of those virtual coincidences, a food blog I recently fell in love with (Chef Mimi Blog) had a post on Trapanese Pesto, and she added anchovies.  Being a certified anchovy-wimp, I added only 1 small filet, carrying it with the tip of the fork, arm extended as far as I could to avoid its pungent aroma…   :-)  Capers seemed like a natural partner for all other ingredients,  so into the pesto they went.

This was a delicious meal! For my taste, Trapanese pesto beats the Genovese by a long shot.  Less oily, less pungent.  The recipe made more sauce than needed for our pasta dinner, leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days.

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Erin, it was great to stalk your blog for recipes and get to know your site better (although I’ve visited your blog many times before) through this month’s adventure with SRC.  For those who want to see the full collection of recipes posted by members of our group, click on the funky frog and have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Superman

TWO YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

THREE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango



BEST THING I EVER MADE SERIES: MUSHROOM STROGANOFF

As I mentioned before, one of the few shows I still enjoy in the FoodTV Network is the series “Best Thing I Ever Made“.  The list of dishes I’d like to make from that show is shamelessly long,  but I keep tuning in and making the list longer.  This meatless take on stroganoff is another great recipe by Alton Brown, featured in the episode “Updated Classics“.   Heads up: the fact that it is meatless does not make it a light meal!  The sauce is very rich with cream and goat cheese, the Portobello mushrooms play the meat part better than I expected.

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MUSHROOM STROGANOFF WITH GOAT CHEESE
(from Alton Brown, Best Thing I Ever Made)

12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 Portobello mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bunch green onions, sliced and white bottoms and green tops separated
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
14 ounces beef broth
8 ounces sour cream
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
fresh parsley leaves, minced, to taste
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Cook the noodles al dente, according to package instructions. Melt the butter in a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan set over medium-high heat. Increase the heat to high, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Saute until they darken in color, soften and give off their liquid, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the white parts of the green onions and saute 2 to 3 minutes.Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine. Cook until the flour disappears and the fond on the bottom of the pan turns dark brown, about 1 minute.
Deglaze with the beef broth. Bring to a simmer and decrease the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, and then add the sour cream, goat cheese and black pepper. Stir to combine, and then partially cover and bring to a simmer to warm through, 2 to 4 minutes.Drain the noodles, add to the pan and stir to combine. Garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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cooking

Comments:  I had no idea that one could find some episodes of FoodTV on the net, without interruption for commercials. If you want to see Alton in action, click here.   He used an interesting method to cook the pasta, starting it in COLD water. I wanted to try it, but completely forgot about it and cooked my noodles the normal way.   Check the link for the recipe in the FoodTV site for his version, or watch the episode in which he explains the rationale for doing it this way.

This was a very substantial and filling pasta. It could be a vegetarian-friendly entrée if you skipped the beef broth and used a veggie broth instead, but I don’t think it would be nearly as good.  I used home-made beef broth from our freezer. I actually like to call it “liquid gold”.  It’s labor-intensive to prepare, but it does shine in a recipe like this one.   It gave amazing depth of flavor to the Portobello mushrooms.   This would be a wonderful dish for a dinner party, by the way.  The sauce can be made in advance, all you have to do is cook the noodles and awe your guests…   ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Tomato Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

THREE YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH PASTA AND MUSSELS IN SAFFRON BROTH

For some reason I had “issues” about cooking mussels at home. Maybe that whole de-bearding thing sounded too wild for my delicate self.  ;-)  But we love mussels and it’s  sad to only have them in restaurants, or even worse, only when we go to Paris and visit one of those widespread “Leon de Bruxelles” places.  Anyway, our grocery store in the Little Apple carries farmed mussels. They have no beard to worry about. Therefore, most of the cleaning process is done. They cook quickly, and certainly make a humble plate of pasta (and a rainy Wednesday evening) shine…

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PASTA WITH MUSSELS IN SAFFRON SAUCE
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

2 cups dry white wine
4 bay leaves
4 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
Pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
linguine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
minced parsley, to taste

In a large pot, combine the wine with the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan a few times, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Drain the mussels in a colander set over a medium bowl. Pour the mussel broth into a glass measure. Crumble the saffron into the hot mussel broth. Reserve.

Discard any unopened mussels. Remove the mussels from their shells and place in a separate bowl. Pour the melted butter over the mussels and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook over low heat just it gets some color. If you prefer, remove the garlic, if not, leave it in, and add the crushed red pepper, cooking together for one minute.   Slowly pour in the reserved mussel broth, stopping when you reach the grit at the bottom of the glass measure. Add the lemon juice and simmer over moderately high heat until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 8 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta just until al dente. Drain the pasta well. Add the buttered mussels and the hot spaghetti to the mussel sauce and toss over low heat until the pasta is uniformly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  Glad to inform my fear of mussels is a thing of the past.  I probably discarded more mussels than needed,  as I rather be safe than sorry, and was a bit insecure preparing them for the first time.  This is a delicious pasta! Of course, having great quality saffron adds a lot to it…  ;-)   Now that I am not afraid of cooking mussels, we will have them at our dinner table on a regular basis,  brightening up our Wednesdays, as we slowly move towards the weekend.

ONE YEAR AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

TWO YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

THREE YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure

SECRET INGREDIENT TURKEY MEATBALLS

served22No worries, I won’t take my sweet time to divulge it.  The secret ingredient in the meatballs is… rolled oats!   And, I have one word for you:  WOW!  I loved their texture and taste, no way you can detect oats in them (not that there’s anything wrong with it… ;-)). They are soft and tender, very light and flavorful. The meat? Ground turkey, white meat only, not the mixture of 50/50 white and dark I normally go for. Ginger and lime tie it all together.  Smoked paprika adds some warmth.

TURKEY MEATBALLS WITH ROLLED OATS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by my niece Raquel)

1 to 1 + 1/2 pounds ground turkey meat
1 egg white
1/2 cup dried quick oats
2 tsp grated ginger root
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
ketchup for brushing (optional)

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, then add all other ingredients.  Mix well with your hands,  but do not squeeze the meat too much.

With wet hands, form large balls and place them in a muffin tin or on a roasting pan covered with parchment paper.  Brush the surface with a little ketchup, if you want.  Cook the meatballs in a 375 F oven for about 30 minutes, turning them midway through cooking time and brushing the top again with ketchup.  Serve them right away, or simmer gently in the sauce of your choice for 10 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here
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Comments:  I made these meatballs on a Saturday to freeze and enjoy later in the week.  I thought they would go well with plain rice and a simple salad.  But then, Phil saw them thawing in the fridge and got all happy about “spaghetti with meatballs”.  Some major change of gears was needed, so I prepared a simple tomato sauce with some orange zest added to it. Simmered the meatballs in it for a few minutes, cooked some whole wheat pasta, and we were all set. Unexpected fusion of east and west…

I must thank my niece Raquel  who raved about meatballs with oats and urged me to make them. A softer texture than breadcrumbs, they end up more like the traditional meatballs prepared with bread soaked in milk. But, of course, considerably lighter in terms of calories.  Next I will be adding rolled oats to my meatloaf, I bet it will be equally awesome!  And, by the way, feel free to add onions and garlic to your meatballs, by now those who follow my blog know that we use those ingredients sparingly.

ONE YEAR AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

TWO YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

THREE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

WHOLE-WHEAT PASTA WITH LEMONY TOMATOES AND SPINACH

Every once in a while I read an article that excites me from the very first phrase. This essay on the state of restaurant dishes, from the latest issue of Bon Appetit, is one such piece.   It expresses  the sense of frustration I sometimes feel when we visit a nice restaurant and have a hard time finding a meal that’s not overly rich.  And that includes the salads!  ;-) These days the safest option for a meal out – if we want to still feel great 4 hours later –  is a Japanese restaurant.  But, enough complaining, this pasta typifies the cooking we like the most.  Light in fat, full of flavor, and quick to put together!

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WHOLE-WHEAT PASTA WITH LEMONY TOMATOES AND SPINACH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Whole-wheat spaghetti (enough for two people)
1 cup red grape tomatoes
1 cup yellow grape tomatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
zest and juice of 1 lemon
big bunch of baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Cut each tomato in half, place in a large bowl and add the olive oil, shaking the bowl to uniformly coat the tomatoes.  Spread them in a large baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 420F for 25-30 minutes, until their skin starts to develop a brown color, and they release liquid.  Reserve.

Boil salted water to cook the pasta. When the pasta is almost ready, transfer the roasted tomatoes to a sautée pan on medium-high heat, making sure to include all the liquid released during roasting.   Add the spinach, squeeze the juice of the lemon all over, and cover the pan until the spinach starts to wilt.

Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta, and add it to the spinach and tomato mixture.  Cook everything together for a couple of minutes, if needed add some of the pasta cooking water. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and right before serving add a very generous amount of lemon zest all over it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  We absolutely loved this pasta!  The lemon zest is a key ingredient, don’t skip it.   You’ll notice I didn’t add any garlic, onions, or herbs.  This dish is all about the tomatoes and spinach, with the intense citric tone in the background.  Phil and I were talking the other day about how we prefer food prepared in a simpler way.  Of course, if I’m making a curry I will need to grab a good number of spices, it’s part of the deal…  But, we find something pleasing about allowing the ingredients to shine, rather than the spices.  In this case, to savor the tomatoes, the spinach and the pasta itself.

This dish was simultaneously satisfying and light.  Next day it made for a wonderful lunch, and I even confess to eating it cold from the refrigerator…   Impromptu Pasta Salad!

ONE YEAR AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

TWO YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

THREE YEARS AGO: Memories of Pasteis (and my Dad)

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH A SEAFOOD EXTRAVAGANZA

served2Phil came up with this recipe about a year ago, and it quickly became a favorite of ours.  The idea is to go to the store and get three kinds of seafood, whatever looks best. Add to that one vegetable: we usually alternate between broccoli, broccolini (love the stuff!) and asparagus.  Lately we’ve been adding fresh shiitake mushrooms too.  This is a very healthy yet substantial meal, in which the pasta is a minor component to give us just the carbs we need.

SEAFOOD EXTRAVAGANZA PASTA
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Pick three of the following options:
Sea scallops
Large shrimp
Salmon filets
Lobster tails
Ahi tuna filets

Choose one of these veggies:
Broccoli
Broccolini
Asparagus

Fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps only
Pasta (corkscrew, farfalle, fusilli)
A couple of lemons, juice and zest
1/4  cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp vermouth
Thyme
salt and pepper

Add the 1/4 cup olive oil to a small bowl, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon, season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme.  Whisk well to form an emulsion. Use that to brush the seafood you intend to grill.

Slice the mushroom caps very thin, cut the broccoli in florets, if using asparagus or broccolini cut them in 1 inch pieces.   Saute’ the mushrooms in 1 Tbsp olive oil, when they are almost tender season with salt and pepper and add the vermouth and lemon zest.  Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Keep warm.  Cook the veggies either in a little salted water or by steaming.  If using broccoli, shock them in cold water to keep the bright green color. Reserve.

Start grilling the seafood (salmon, lobster tail, or ahi tuna). Sautee the shrimp and scallops on 1 Tbsp olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Make sure not to over-cook the scallops and saute’ them in extra-high heat to sear the surface.   Cook the pasta to have it ready once all the rest of the food is done.  Reserve some of the pasta water in case you need it.

Once the pasta is done, drain it, put it back in the pan, add the mushrooms and broccoli, mix well.  If needed, add a little of the pasta water.  Transfer to a serving bowl, and add all the seafood on top, cutting the salmon (and lobster tails, if using) in large chunks.  Keep the scallops and shrimp whole. A squeeze of lemon juice all over the serving bowl is a nice final touch.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I won’t sugar-coat the pill, this dish requires some effort so that all ingredients are ready at the same time for the final assembly. We always like to cook salmon and lobster tail on the grill, whereas the scallops and shrimp are sautéed on the stove.  Same for veggies and mushrooms.  You get the picture.  It is much easier if you and your partner (or friend, parent, sibling, room-mate, neighbor) cook this together.  However, usually Superman Phil is adamant about doing it all by himself. I am left watching him dash through the kitchen to the grill and back, spatula in hand, kitchen towel hanging from one shoulder, pasta water furiously boiling, and the dogs hoping that with all that activity some stuff might follow the Law of Gravity all the way to the kitchen floor.  Sometimes, it does happen… But, once all is said and done, we are rewarded with a great dinner! See my plate?  I go heavy on the scallops. I am not ashamed and will fight for the biggest, juiciest ones.   ;-)

platedThe pasta plays a completely secondary role. This is a dish centered on seafood and supported by a nice helping of broccoli.  Squeeze some more lemon juice right before indulging… And, if that was not enough seafood for a meal, I’ll tell  you what we love to have as appetizer before this dinner. All of a sudden, Wednesday evening feels like a party!   ;-)
appetizer

Heaven. Pure heaven.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Pearfect Drink

TWO YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

THREE YEARS AGO: Paris, Je t’aime