Cheesy Artichoke Rice

I hate the way when you look up “cheesy rice” and you get “minute rice” and non-cheese cheese slices. Ugh. That is just not right. And that is also not cheese either.  Who does this?  I ran out of orzo and thought to make a rice recipe that would work for my lunches at work. I prefer home-made lunch to restaurants, with some exceptions.  You know, things I just don’t make (Indian food) and that I know other people do a much better job than me. But pasta dishes, rice dishes, when lots of cheese or mushrooms are involved – I think I got this. No, I know I do. D&D_2081

So my thoughts on this are:

I need lunch for tomorrow.
I have no vegetable or chicken stock (unreal!) and I’m not going to the grocery store at 8:30pm. Nope.
I have lots of rice.
I have quite the variety of cheeses.
I have scallions that are mostly okay.~
Always have onions and garlic.
Lemon zest

With all that in mind, I’m going to figure out what to make tonight and here is what I did.
2 cups H2O
1 cup long grain rice
lots of salt

Cook like you always make rice – if you need a tutorial this is how it goes: Thank you The Kitchn.

Once you remove it from the heat, add 3 Tbs of unsalted butter while it steams on the back burner — important: lid on, heat off.

Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Small yellow onion, diced
3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
artichoke hearts, drained & quartered (not marinated)
~ the scallions were past there “best buy” date at this point – too bad. But the onions and garlic made up for it.

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs unsalted butter and one small yellow onion diced and a good pinch of kosher salt. Saute on low-ish heat until soft. Then add three cloves (less or more as you prefer) minced and let them sit on the top of the onions  – you don’t want them to burn. Stir them in a bit and then remove from heat.

Now, here is where things get interesting – I opened a can of artichoke hearts and quartered them and added them to the onion mixture with a little glug of olive oil and let everything simmer until it was a cohesive mix of veg that was soft – that seems to be key.

D&D_iPhone_image1As mentioned – I have cheese options – so I pulled out all the cheese that had already been opened. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego  – so the decision is which one or which combination to use. I used some Manchego because it is melty but it grates like a cheddar, but just a little softer and the Dog (Hood) really likes it. And then the Pecorino – for that salty flavor – a great sheep’s milk hard cheese. Not too different, really from Parmigiano, but not the same either. Manchego is another sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. So I guess this is the Spanish sheep milk cheese recipe.

I have to say cheese, for me, matters not if it from a cow, a goat, or a sheep. I just love cheese in a stupid sort of way. That is probably obvious by now.

But when I do it again, I will put some sharp cheddar in the mix. This time I added lemon zest at home and took that lemon to work for the juice for my lunch leftover hacks. Excellent.

I think that just might be the key to a great lunch hack at work. I always have a fresh lemon and a bit of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano in the fridge there – it really makes all the difference in the world. From boring leftovers to something special.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato & Cantal

Another no-recipe recipe – some night cooking, which is something I do quite often, for work lunches for the week. I would have liked to have some cream for this, but to be honest, I managed pretty well with out it. Although, some mascarpone might have been excellent. D&D_2073

I was just trying to make something that I would like with what I had on hand and here is how it went. Again not going to the grocery store at this point in the evening – which was about 11pm, or so.

8 ozs penne pasta – one of my favorite pasta shapes – always use this for mac n cheese*
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (or a shallot?)
8.5 ozs sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, but drained (save the oil!)
8 ozs Cantal cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grated
zest of lemon
Parmesan, finely grated

In a big pot, heat water to boiling with a really big handful of kosher salt. Cook penne until al dente.

In a sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat and add onions and saute until soft, but not browned in any way.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for a bit, just to make sure they are really soft – this is key.

Add the cooked pasta and blend together. Remove from heat and add the Cantal, a semi-hard cheese from France that is slightly similar to a Cheddar. Specifically from Auvergne region of central France. Fancy French Cheese – always good.

Once the cheese is all melty, serve in a bowl with a bit of lemon zest (always a good thing with a cheesy pasta in my opinion) and a little bit of fresh Parmesan for that salty goodness.  The ratios are yours to decide.

This made great leftover lunches for about a week. And the Boy made a strange version of it for dinner one night – with eggs. I’m still not sure I understand that at all.

*no elbows for me.

Work Food Hacks

So I eat lunch at work quite often (most days). And I bring leftovers because I don’t care for cold sandwiches with one amazing exception*. So what to do to make it interesting and different and using the limited equipment we have at the office to make it work. In my case, that’s a microwave, a toaster, and a toaster oven, so it really is somewhat limited.

So this will be a recurring post with my terrible iPhone camera pictures. 

First up – Mushroom Fontina Toasts which is a play on Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

D&D_1180

Yes, this picture is pretty much awful. But it was my lunch and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

So I brought some Italian bread into the office with some of the leftover mushroom shallot garlic mixture. Then I went to the Publix and got some thick sliced Fontina from the deli. So I heat the toaster oven while I toast the Italian bread in the toaster. Meanwhile I heated the mushroom mixture in the microwave just a bit. Not too much though.

So this is how you put it all together: with the toaster oven heated, on broil, top the toasted bread with the warm mushroom mixture, and then top with the thick sliced Fontina. Broil until the desired gooey-ness factor is achieved.

Then put it on your ugly paper plate and have a great lunch at work. 

Now here are some extra tips – have some lemons available, even at the office, oh and it never hurts to have a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce for they both are fresh flavors. 

* cheddar, mayonnaise, and homemade hummus, on Italian bread. Oh yes, this is now in my brain and I have to make it again. 

 

Pecorino Chicken with white wine, & lemon butter sauce 

I have been making this for so many years.  It was in a David Rosengarten newsletter, I can’t believe I have never posted it. Dear lord, this has been so many years. I have altered it over time to reduce steps and streamline, but the flavor remains one of my favorites. Honestly, as much as I love the whole recipe I would be just as happy with the jasmine rice and the pan sauce. That way I have my favorite part and leave the chicken to the boys and a lot of the time, I do just that. It makes a great lunch with a little more finely grated pecorino and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Lots of fresh lemon. No, I am not kidding. This is a thing you must do. Yes. do. D&D_2052

My version:
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 cup dry white wine or one of those cute little individual bottles – that is just what I do.
1 1/2 cup vegetable or no salt chicken stock
2 lemons, sliced, seeds removed (duh)

Cut each chicken breast in half or in three pieces or so if that works better and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Pound with kitchen mallet until about 1/2″ thick, or at least until they are all even thickness.

So spread out another piece of waxed paper for the prepared chicken.  Place the flour on another piece of waxed paper and and some black pepper.  In a medium bowl, whisk an egg until combined and then on another piece of waxed paper spread the finely grated Pecorino.  Dip the chicken pieces in flour, then in the egg, and then press into the Pecorino.  Let sit on the additional piece of waxed paper until ready to saute in a bit of olive oil. Letting this sit is a good thing.

In a non-stick saute pan, add a bit of olive oil and let it simmer a bit – you want it hot, but not crazy. Add each piece of coated chicken and saute until each side is medium brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. At this point, add stock and simmer for a bit  – really reduce it until it is almost gone. Then turn the heat up and then add the wine. Now, add the lemon slices and let them simmer. Squish the lemon rounds and then remove them.

Add the chicken pieces again and let them simmer, but don’t turn them because you want part of the chicken to be a bit crunchy. Turning would defeat that purpose.

While this is going on make at least a couple of cups of jasmine rice. Because it will be the best part, at least to me, of the dinner.

Let the chicken simmer for a bit and then check to make sure it is cooked through. Then serve.  ~~~ A bit of rice, a piece of Pecorino chicken and a good bit of pan sauce.

You can see why I love the rice and pan sauce bit – well, if you cannot, I can. Amazing. Oh, and a little extra lemon is never a bad thing. Neither is a bit of extra finely grated Pecorino.  Sigh.

Original Recipe:
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated Pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten well
Flour for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
6 thin, round slices of lemon, seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the chicken breasts into 6 pieces of roughly equal size. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed paper, and pound with a mallet until they’re thin. Season with salt and pepper. Place cheese and parsley in a wide, shallow bowl. Slowly add the beaten egg, whisking until it’s smoothly incorporated. Place the flour on a wide plate. Dip the pounded chicken in the egg mixture. Remove, letting excess egg drip off. Place each cutlet in the flour, and coat lightly. Remove from flour and hold them in a single layer.
Add the olive oil to a saute pan large enough to hold the 6 cutlets in a single layer. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets. Saute, turning once, until the cutlets are golden on the outside, just cooked on the inside (about 2 minutes per side). Remove the cutlets, and hold them in a single layer.
Spill the oil out of the saute pan. Return the pan to high heat. Add the white wine, and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken stock and the lemon slices. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove the lemon slices. Keep boiling the sauce until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup. Turn heat to very low. Swirl in the butter until the sauce is thickened. Add the reserved chicken, turning them until they are coated in sauce. Divide cutlets among 2 plates, pour remaining sauce over them, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of David Rosengarten

Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

D&D_1854So we had an abundance of feta cheese at the office – it is a long story, but I decided to make something of it. For Easter I thought a pasta salad would be good, but something light and fresh. So here is what I did. Another non-recipe recipe, but there it is.

8 ozs Orzo, al dente
1/2 pound asparagus, blanched until bright green (30 second – 1 minute) and the cooled, cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and diced, or frozen
1/2 8.5 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut, drained*
2 Tbs minced chives
Feta crumbles from the office – not sure how much, but just make it look good with the color contrast

Vinaigrette –
juice and zest of one lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced chives
salt/pepper to taste**

While the orzo is cooking, mix together vinaigrette ingredients in a decent sized serving bowl.  Once orzo is drained, add the hot pasta to the vinaigrette. Let the orzo soak up all that flavor. All that lemon.

Mix in all the other pasta salad ingredients and serve at room temperature.

What could be easier? I am not entirely sure especially since I had it all on hand – thanks work for the feta. Have to take the perks when you get them.

I feel proud of this – I mixed a lot of things together and it really worked.  Thank you Nigella for the vinaigrette recipe.

*I usually use dried tomatoes that I rehydrate in hot water, but this time oil-packed made more sense to me.

** I hate this expression. Do people not really know to taste things and season them with salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe add more acid with some lemon or vinegar. Now I am being that food person that everyone says I am. Sigh.

I have local fresh eggs – amazing!

My friend Tony told me his friend Dusty raises chickens and sells eggs. Finally, a source for farm fresh eggs  – that is so great! I know there have been several places in Milton that have signs out for fresh eggs, but I just do not go into Milton that often. Tony speaks very highly of his friend and from the description the chickens are kept in, it is the kind of environment that I think is great for chickens. I mentioned it at work and someone called them yard eggs, and I guess when you get right down to it, that is really what they are. Though I have never heard that phrase before.

dd_1787

The colors are so amazing. It is like Easter eggs without dying them.

This is just in time for my Meyer lemons to come in from California so I can make all kinds of lemon curd. And lemon curd tartlets – oh yes, this is going to be a good couple of baking weeks. Or just a good couple of weeks in general. Yep.

I think Meyer lemon curd has to be first because the two most important things are egg yolks and Meyer (or any lemon, but prefer Meyer) lemon juice. I think the only other thing that will be made more outstanding is hollandaise because, again, egg yolks. And fresh ones have to be so superior.

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking