Go Fish

Hi friends, it has been a while since I have posted. I have spent a lot of time working at a new job, moving, and life sometimes gets in the way. The good news is that the new job involves wine, which has been an incredible education. I will save that post for another day.
Lately I have had many opportunities to eat my words, literally and figuratively. One of the biggest areas has been seafood. Growing up there were two ways my family ate seafood: Starkist and frozen fish sticks. Not the most delectable introduction to be sure. I grew up and older knowing that I was not a fan of seafood. This was heightened by the fact that shellfish makes me nauseous and headachey. I had tried a few times to broaden my horizons, trying salmon and other fish cooked by those indifferent to the quality of their ingredients. It didn’t help matters.
That has recently changed, I dated a chef that recognized the importance of quality in his ingredients. Through him, I have finally found an appreciation for seafood. The first thing he convinced me to try was Atlantic salmon. It is also the first seafood I ever tried to cook on my own. Home cook that I am, the results were as pleasing as the pro’s. Just remember, fresh, never frozen, is the key here.
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Ingredients

Fresh salmon fillet or portion of. It is easier to cut into portions before cooking
2-4 tablespoons butter
Lemon, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Your choice of seasoning

Directions
Preheat oven to 500 degrees
Melt butter and pour into pan
Place salmon skin side up in pan and bake for 5 minutes
Remove salmon from oven and flip
Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of any seasoning you would like to have
Place thinly sliced lemon on each portion.
Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes

Enjoy!

Skillet Lasagna

The alternative title for this post was “How Not to Dirty Every Dish I Own”, as that seems to be the general plan whenever I make lasagna.  Get out the sauce pan, the cutting board, the tomato smashing tools, the garlic press, the big pot for the noodles, the strainer to dump the noodles in, the bowl to mix the cheeses, the various spoons and such for dealing with all the things that are going in the pots and bowls…the pan for the lasagna.  Then quick, while it is bubbling away in the oven, wash everything.  Then get out more dishes for the salad, the garlic bread and the dinner plates.  That would be why I have not made lasagna in, ummmm, well I can’t remember how long.  It an exhausting dish to clean up around.

But much like Garfield, I love lasagna.  I kept thinking that there had to be a better way around this until I can afford a lackey whose sole job was to do dishes behind me, the poor unlucky future bastard.  I have been tinkering around with some versions of this skillet lasagna.  This is my favorite, and last night was the final tinkering: fresh mozzarella or shredded.  I made the dish and melted half and half.  The fresh mozzarella not only looked better but it won on taste hands down.  My family has had a long-standing argument about the ricotta vs cottage cheese in lasagna.  Over the years we have come to a compromise in mixing half and half.  If you prefer one or the other, go nuts, my recipe is what I make to keep the odd cottage cheese folks happy.  I won’t say I eliminated all of the dishes, but less than a sink full when all was said and done is a victory to me.

Skillet Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 12 ounces of mafalda noodles (think miniature lasagna noodles, go ahead and substitute-I don’t judge)
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced thin
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping
  • Fresh basil leaves for topping
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a 12 inch skillet, cook onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent.  Add pepper flakes and heat for another minute.
  2. Add ground beef to skillet and brown, breaking beef into crumbles.  Once fully cooked, spoon off most, but not all, of the fat.
  3. While beef is cooking, stir together crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, brown sugar and Italian season in a large bowl.
  4. In an even layer, add noodles on top of the beef and pour tomato mixture over the top of the noodles.  Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low-medium.  I occasionally need to add a bit more water from time to time, but usually there is enough moisture in the tomato sauce to cook the noodles to al dente.  Add salt/pepper to taste to the sauce.
  5. Mix the cottage cheese with the ricotta in a small bowl.  Once the noodles are al dente, drop spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese mix onto the lasagna.  I like to drag the spoon through like you do when creating a swirl in a cake.  It spreads it around a bit but not too much where you lose the taste by spreading too thin.
  6. Scatter the pieces of fresh mozzarella over the top of the lasagna and cover with a lid for about 5 minutes.
  7. Chiffonade the basil and add it with the shredded Parmesan to the top and enjoy.
  8. Find someone to do the dishes:)
Left side fresh, right side bagged.  Fresh is the best.

Left side fresh, right side bagged. Fresh is the best.

Burrito Casserole

burrito

I love cleaning out my fridge, to the point of almost being therapy level.  Finding something to do with all of those little leftover bits that didn’t fit in the previous recipe always brings joy.  It means I didn’t waste any money and I am not throwing away food that could have better served starving children somewhere.  As a side note..is it just me or do we all carry around a miniature version of our mom with all of her favorite sayings in our heads?

The following recipe is great for using up those last two large tortillas in the package.  Especially if you bought all of the ingredients to make burritos and realized when you got home that you only had a couple of tortillas, not the full package you thought was hiding under the bread.

Burrito Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 2 large tortillas (burrito size)
  • 1 (16 ounce) can of refried beans
  • 2-4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 ounces of sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º
  2. Brown ground beef and drain
  3. Add taco seasoning to beef and combine.
  4. Add refried beans to taco meat and mix.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the cream of mushroom soup and the sour cream.
  6. Spread 1/2 of the cream mixture on the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.
  7. Lay a tortilla over the top of the the cream.
  8. Add 1/2 of meat mixture on top of the tortilla.
  9. Add 1/2 of the cheddar cheese.
  10. I do the next layer in slightly different order.  Add the second tortilla, then remaining cream mix, then the meat mixture, and finally the remaining cheese.
  11. Bake in the over for 30 minutes, and enjoy.

Carbonara

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Don’t you just love spaghetti alla carbonara? If you are saying carba-whatta, it is okay, I don’t judge. My parents never made it either.  Trust me, you gotta try it anyways.  The ingredients and steps are few, and with a little timing, is an easy dish to whip together.  Comfort food doesn’t need to be hard and finicky to be tasty.  Step by step directions will follow, but you basically cook pancetta (or bacon), add hot pasta and a bit of the pasta water and pour in a combination of eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano. Toss together so that the hot pasta cooks the eggs enough to make them a creamy sauce-not so much that you are eating scrambled eggs and pasta.  You add black pepper and you eat.

I make mine a touch different, but mainly because (gasp) I don’t care for black pepper.  If you leave it out, the dish is missing something.  I fill that gap by cooking shallots with the pancetta.  If you are now asking “Pan-whatta?”, I will help.  pancetta is basically bacon that isn’t smoked when it is cured.  More and more grocery stores are stocking it as more and more folks get addicted to the Food Network.  I go to an Italian store on the East Side for mine, as my grocery store only sells it pre-chopped or sliced.  Don’t go on a mad hunt, bacon substitutes just fine in the dish.  For me, I just like to cube the pancetta and have meatier chunks in my dish.  That is one of the things that makes this dish great, it stands up to simple substitutions well.  In the picture, I made it with Capellini (angel hair) rather than spaghetti.  Remember, in cooking recipes are often guidelines rather than rules.  Tinker away and don’t forget to let me know what you changed and how it turned out.  I might like your version even better than mine!

Pasta alla Carbonara

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) dry spaghetti
  • ½ pound pancetta cubed-or bacon diced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and NO, the green tube of grated Parmesan is not the same (there are many substitutions that can be made this is not one of them)

Directions:

  • Heat a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente (tender yet firm)
  • As the pasta cooks, saute the pancetta in olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet.  Cook until the fat renders.
  • Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and add the shallot, cooking for a minute or so.
  • Turn off the heat on the skillet and move from the hot burner.
  • Whisk together the eggs and Parmigiano in a small bowl, until uniform in color
  • Do not drain the pasta in the sink, instead lift it out of its pot and place into skillet
  • Toss the hot pasta with the fat from the pancetta for 1-2 minutes
  • Pour the egg mix into the pasta and toss-the pasta should be just the right temperature to cook the eggs enough to make them creamy and not curdle
  • Add up to a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to the dish to thin out the sauce a bit and bind everything all together
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!
Mmmm, Pancetta.  It's like Mmmm bacon, but better

Mmmm, Pancetta. It’s like Mmmm bacon, but better

Love That Comfort Chow

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf

One of my dear son’s favorite foods is meatloaf.  I was going to make this brilliant analogy here about how meatloaf is like sex, better made at home than with strangers who put god knows what into the mix.  Then it hit me, it is also better when it comes from mom and the analogy threw up a little in my mouth.  So no, meatloaf is not like sex, or even slightly sexy.  Like mom, it is comforting but not always the one you want to be seen in public hugging.  The version I made this week was a turkey meatloaf…you carnivores can substitute beef, but turkey was on sale a $1 a pound.

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.  In a large bowl, mix all ingredients just until thoroughly combined (don’t over mix!).  I use my hands, I hate getting stuff on my hands but it is the best way.  Place meat mixture in a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  When using the ground turkey, remember that the internal temp needs to hit at least 160°.  Enjoy your not at all sexy, but comforting supper.