CRISPY CHICKPEA AND CAPER SPAGHETTI

Absolutely delicious and a cinch to put together, I dare say that even chickpea haters might appreciate these little creatures when presented this way.  This was my first time roasting capers, but it won’t be the last. Great boost of flavor for an ingredient that already has quite a strong personality.

Pasta with Roasted Chickpeas and Capers
CRISPY CHICKPEA AND CAPER SPAGHETTI
(slightly adapted from Real Simple)

3/4 pound spaghetti
1 can chickpeas (15 ounce)  rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup olive oil  (I probably used a little less)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 400° F.  Combine the chickpeas, panko, capers, oil, coriander, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing once, until crispy, 18 to 22 minutes.

While the chickpeas are roasting, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pan.

Add the chickpeas, cilantro, and lemon juice to the pasta and toss to combine.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

roasted

Comments:  What a great, simple recipe this was! I’ve roasted chickpeas before, but they always turned a little mushy. The addition of panko-style bread crumbs brought a very pleasant crunch to the mixture.  Roasted capers were another very pleasant surprise. I love their sharp, pungent taste in any type of recipe. Roasting changes that sharpness quite a bit, I would say it takes some of it away, but at the same time intensifies the pure caper flavor.  Am I making sense?  ;-)  Make this pasta and see what you think.

served111Dinner is served! 
Grilled lemony chicken breasts and snow peas completed our meal…

ONE YEAR AGO: Leaving on a jet plane

TWO YEARS AGO: Crispy Herb-Crusted Halibut

THREE YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bonjour!

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LINGUINE WITH CAULIFLOWER PESTO

Linguini Cauliflower Pesto

A sensible person evaluates a situation and chooses a path of action that is compatible with it.  For example: a sensible food blogger whose kitchen is undergoing renovation would take a break from The Secret Recipe Club to be back once she actually has a place to cook.  I did consider that option for a while, say… 5 seconds.  ;-) So, throwing caution to the wind, here I am to join once more the virtual party in which bloggers are paired in secret to cook recipes from their matched blog.
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Last month was my 2nd anniversary with SRC, so this post opens my third year with the group. And what could be better for an “old-timer” than to be paired with a new member?  I was assigned Vintage Kitchen Notes, hosted by the beautiful  Paula, who just joined SRC. She cooks and blogs from Argentina, right next door to my home country. Paula blogs in English, but she also keeps another blog in Spanish – talk about blogging stamina!  I actually tried to include recipes in Portuguese for a while, but quickly realized it was too much of a struggle for me.  So, I am in awe that Paula can do it all!  Her photography is beautiful, I had a wonderful time browsing her site. Let me share a few of her concoctions that were particularly tempting to me: 8-Hour Cheesecake with Roasted GrapesLimoncello-Glazed Citrus Poppy Seed Cake, Chocolate-Hazelnut Mini-Bundt Cakes (gorgeous!), Pastel Azteca (gotta make that sometime), Roasted Radicchio and Provolone Risotto (go drool over the photo, will you?), and just to tempt my bread baking addiction, she has more than 40 different bread recipes listed on her index.  I will just mention one: Soft Pretzels with Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce.   I’ve always wanted to make soft pretzels at home, but that will have to wait for calmer days.
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Since our kitchen looks like a war zone.  I ended up choosing a very intriguing recipe that required only the food processor and one pan to cook the pasta.  Seemed doable under the circumstances.  So, I am delighted to share with you my first experience with a cauliflower pesto!

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LINGUINE WITH CAULIFLOWER PESTO 
(from Paula, at Vintage Kitchen Notes, originally adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
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1 pound (450g) fresh cauliflower
1 medium shallot, quartered
pinch of red pepper flakes
½ cup toasted almonds
2 oz. (60g) Asiago cheese
4 sun-dried tomatoes, dried-packed
1 Tbs drained capers
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil (I used 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (I added 2 tsp)
1 pound linguine
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Cover the sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water in a small bowl and let them stand for 5 to 10 minutes to soften. Drain well and chop them coarsely. Rinse the cauliflower, cut off the leaves and hard stalks.  Cut the rest into chunks, and add to a food processor, processing them until they are more or less the texture of couscous. Transfer to a large bowl and reserve while you prepare the other ingredients.
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Add to the food processor the pieces of shallot,  pepper flakes, almonds, cheese,  sun-dried tomatoes, capers and parsley. Process until they´re as fine as the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Add oil and vinegar and pulse until a paste forms. If you feel it´s too dry for your taste, add another tablespoon of olive oil.
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Transfer to the bowl with the cauliflower, check the mixture  for salt and pepper and add more if necessary.
Cook the linguini until al dente in plenty of salted boiling water.  Reserve some of the cooking liquid, and drain the pasta, transferring to a serving bowl.   Add some of the pesto and mix gently.  If necessary, add some of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the remaining pesto, sprinkle with grated cheese, a few parsley leaves and serve immediately.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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Comments:  You might remember that Phil is not too wild about cauliflower, so I  was hoping to prepare the pesto while he was doing something outside, maybe playing golf or trimming tree branches.  My plan almost worked but not quite. I had cleaned all the “remains” of the cauliflower from the crime scene,  but he caught a glimpse of the processed cauliflower, and…

What is this? some exotic type of rice?

This? No, not rice.
(quickly moving the bowl away from view)

Hummmmm… couscous?

 No, not really…

What IS it?

I cannot quite tell you.  It’s a surprise. It’s going to be a pesto..  A surprise pesto..    

Pesto? Great, I love pesto!

;-) ;-) ;-) ;-)

served

Verdict: Two very enthusiastic thumbs up for this pasta! I can understand why Paula made this dish twice in  the same week. One could imagine the raw cauliflower to be too sharp and omnipresent in the pesto, but it’s not.  It is just a perfectly balanced dish, with the capers, the vinegar, the sun-dried tomatoes, the parsley,  a real winner.  I divulged the “secret ingredient” of the Secret Recipe Club concoction to Phil, and he was amazed.  The heat of the pasta slightly changes the texture of the cauliflower, taming its raw taste.  I highly recommend you try this recipe.  If you use the reduced amount of oil I did, make sure to save some of the pasta cooking liquid to adjust the consistency at the end.  If it still seems too thick, swirl a little olive oil right at the table.

Paula, it was great to get your blog this month, I hope you had fun stalking and cooking from your assigned site!

For a delicious collection of tasty dishes prepared by my friends from Group D of SRC, click on the blue frog at the end of the post…

ONE YEAR AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

THREE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

FOUR YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

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



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…

served1

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

A SECOND TASTE OF HOME COOKING

On my most recent adventure in The Secret Recipe Club,  I had a hard time deciding between two recipes from my assigned blog,  “A Taste of Home Cooking”.  I went with Orange and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin,  but couldn’t wait to make possibility number 2, a recipe that took me straight back to my California days.

This might surprise you, but when I arrived in the US for the first time in 1986,  both me and my former husband had zero experience with frozen dinners, as they didn’t exist in Brazil back then.  We were amazed!  Those cute little boxes ready to warm up and enjoy, so many options, so convenient!  We went TV-dinner-crazy, trying all sorts of brands and styles of cuisine.  Once the thrill of  the novelty passed,  we went back to our regular approach of home-cooked meals, but I never lost a soft spot for “Swedish Meatballs with Noodles”.  That little frozen box, and Velveeta (there, I said it!)  are a bit disturbing for a food blogger to love, but…  I am guilty on both counts. I’ve got nothing to say  in my defense about Velveeta, but I’m redeeming myself on frozen dinners with this home-cooked version of a favorite classic.

SWEDISH MEATBALLS AND EGG NOODLES
( from A Taste of Home Cooking, original recipe from Rachael Ray)

for the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, finely chopped  (I used 1 shallot)
A few drops Worcestershire sauce (I used 1 tsp)
Salt and pepper

for the sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 cup beef broth
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup sour cream (I reduced to 1/4 cup)

1 bag wide egg noodles (I used fettuccine)
1 tablespoon butter

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl, and form bite-size balls, placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning them midway through cooking time.

As the meatballs bake,  boil water for the pasta and start preparing the sauce.  Melt the  butter over medium heat, sprinkle the flour over it, and cook for a couple of minutes,  whisking constantly.  Slowly add sherry and whisk until the sauce reduces by half. Add beef broth in a slow stream and continue stirring until the sauce thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Turn off heat and add salt and pepper to taste,  Dijon mustard and sour cream.

Once the noodles are cooked, drain them and toss with butter.  Turn a low heat under the sauce to gently warm it,  add the baked meatballs to the sauce, stir to coat, and serve over pasta.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  This was a delicious meal, quick and simple to prepare.  Next time, I will make two small adjustments: bake the meatballs slightly less, so they will be lighter in color, and use the full amount of sour cream in the sauce.

Just as I expected, this meal brought memories of my first few months in the US, when I could barely communicate in English,  and struggled to adjust to a new environment.  I had no idea that 26  years later I’d be writing a blog about it, especially because the term blog didn’t exist.  ;-)

If A Taste of Home Cooking is not on your list of blogs to visit, jump right over, she’s got a ton of great recipes to share!

ONE YEAR AGO: Italian Easter Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

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PORK RAGU

September 21st, 2011. That’s when Lynda, from Taste Food, published her ‘Ode to Fall”, a pork ragu served over pappardelle.  I bookmarked the recipe right away, but only made it last week.  Better late than never, this ragu jumped straight into our list of favorites!  The pork falls apart after 2 hours simmering, and turns into a sauce that is intense and mild at the same time (if that’s at all possible! ;-) )  Make it one day in advance for added deliciousness.

PORK RAGU OVER NOODLES
(adapted from Taste Food)

2 pounds pork butt, excess fat trimmed, cut in 2 inch chunks
Salt
Black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, finely diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
2 (28 ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound noodles or pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
Grated Parmiggiano cheese

Season the pieces of pork with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large pot until it’s shimmering. Add pork in one layer in batches, without overcrowding, so that it will brown without steaming.  After all sides are seared, remove pieces to a plate, and reserve until all the meat is browned.   Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan.

Add onion, carrots, and red pepper flakes. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the wine, and deglaze the pan with it. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Return pork to the pot and submerge in the sauce.  If necessary, add water to bring the level of the liquid to the top of the meat.  Simmer, covered, over low heat until pork is very tender, about 2 hours. Remove lid and continue to simmer, skimming fat occasionally with a spoon, until sauce is thickened, 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

ENJOY!  (I know you will…)

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You will need 2 pounds of cubed meat for this recipe, but there’s a lot of trimming to do on a piece of pork butt, so buy a large piece, and if you have more than you need, freeze the extra amount.

My main modification to this recipe was reducing the amount of onion and omitting the garlic. If you want, add a few cloves. Phil and garlic don’t match very well, so we use it very sparingly.

Maybe if you are used to eating a lot of garlic, you’ll feel that there’s something missing in my version of this ragu, but I suggest you give it a try without, and concentrate on the pure taste of the meat as you savor your plate of pasta.  And, by the way, this ragu would be amazing served with any type of root veggie puree. Soft-cooked polenta wouldn’t be that bad either!

ONE YEAR AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

TWO YEARS AGO: Green Light for this Salad

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SPRING PASTA

Proving that there’s no such thing as too many recipes using asparagus, here is one more: a very tasty and healthy pasta dish to celebrate Spring, even if the season is already waving goodbye.  However, here in L.A. the warm weather is dragging its feet, temperatures barely hit the mid 70’s, and I still have to resort to long sleeves shirts.  It’s preposterous!

I got this recipe from a new food blog: Inspired Edibles, hosted by Kelly, where you’ll also find all sorts of articles related to nutrition and fitness, two topics I’m quite fond of.   Kelly got the recipe from  from Ellie Krieger, cookbook author and Food TV host. I made just a few changes to accommodate what I had around the kitchen.

SPRING PASTA
(adapted from this post in Inspired Edibles)

whole-wheat spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
1 bunch of asparagus
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock (or water)
fresh parsley, chopped
Iberico cheese, grated (or Parmiggiano Reggiano)

Heat oven to 375 F.   Cut the tough stems off the asparagus and discard.  Cut the stems in half, and unless the stems are very thin, slice the lower half in half lengthwise.  Place them in a baking dish, coat lightly with 1 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkle salt, and bake for 12-15 minutes, until barely soft.

Start cooking the pasta according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs olive oil on a large non-stick skillet and saute the garlic and the sun dried tomatoes for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomatoes start to soften up.  Season with a little salt and pepper. If the pasta is not cooked yet, reserve the sauteed mixture over very low heat.   Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the skillet together with the chicken stock, reserved asparagus, 3/4 of the walnuts, parsley and grated cheese.  Mix well, and warm it all together in medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

Serve with the remaining walnuts and additional grated cheese on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  The more I eat whole-wheat pasta the more I like it. Barilla is my top choice, but this time I used a Trader Joe’s alternative and found that its beautiful brownish color faded quite a bit upon cooking.  Not quite sure why that would happen, but it tasted fine, maybe a little less “toothsome” than Barilla.

Surprisingly,  there was no Parmiggiano in our home, so I used Iberico, a delicious Spanish cheese, similar to Manchego.  Since it’s not a hard, grating type cheese, it melted almost instantaneously in contact with the pasta.  Nothing wrong with that, actually, we loved it!  But it is a bit messy to grate, next time I’ll stick with the classic Parmiggiano.

Kelly, thanks so much for the inspiration,  you obviously picked a perfect name for your blog!   ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO:  Ice cream melts for mango

 

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