Asparagus Mushroom Pasta w/Pecorino

I just keep modifying this recipe with the hopes of perfection, but to be honest since it includes two of my favorite vegetables, asparagus and mushrooms, along with some melty cheese and some salty cheese, it starts out pretty far ahead of the game.

D&D_1340_iPhoneThis is also great left over for lunch, but you must heat it very slowly in the microwave and stir very often or heat up the oven feature on the toasted oven and put it in there to reheat. Otherwise, the sauce breaks – it still tastes good, but it is not the same.

olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*

8 ozs penne pasta
1 pound asparagus,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil and then add garlic and cook over low heat while garlic softens and flavors the oil/butter. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté on medium until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Turn the heat to low. then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables. Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and then add a handful of freshly grated Pecorino cheese and stir again.D&D_2242

Serve with extra Pecorino and more lemon wedges for serving.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination.

When I know I am making this dish, or one similar, I usually cook the asparagus/pasta one day, typically when I’m cooking pasta for something else too. Then the bag of pasta/asparagus is ready when I’m ready for pasta. I drop in in a colander and run very hot water over it for a minute or two and let drain completely. D&D_1318

Modified several times based on a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.

Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

D&D_2268

Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps

One Pot Spaghetti

This recipe appealed to me because, in my small mind, spaghetti is always best as a left over. Kind of like meatloaf. I do not like warm meatloaf on a plate (isn’t meatloaf just such a strange word?), nor do I like spaghetti with sauce the day I make it. It does not really matter if it is my pasta sauce (vegetarian) or a meat sauce – it is always way (!) better when it sits in the fridge for a day or two.

My favorite way to eat spaghetti, which was always with a meat sauce when I was growing up, was a day later, reheated in a small pot on the stove – and then at the end, my mom would stir in small chunks of cheddar (a cheese she never skimped on – ever). So melty cheddar, meat sauce, soft noodles, and lovely goodness.

This recipe gets right down to that point. Cooking the pasta in the sauce makes a big difference, but I will still argue that waiting that one more painful day will make it just perfection. Let us just say, that I am right because I did it that way and it was just about everything I remember from the left-over spaghetti-ness of my childhood.*

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 large sweet onion (softball-sized onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups water
15 ozs can tomato sauce
15 ozs can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 ozs spaghetti, broken in half
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 Tbs chopped parsley

In a large potter medium high heat cook beef and onion until soft. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two. Drain fat (there was not much).

Add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil. Add spaghetti and stir. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook, stirring often, until noodles are cooked through, 15 minutes or so.

Stir in Parmesan and parsley before serving.

3 November 2017 – Tasty, but in my opinion needs more tomato flavor. Maybe use crushed tomatoes instead of diced. The Boy like the taste of it. Maybe a bit of tomato paste while adding the garlic?

Hoping the reheat on the next day will make it even better. This certainly will not be the last time I make it. And I can report now – yes – later is always better with spaghetti.

Can not wait to take it to lunch with some shredded extra sharp cheddar. That should just be the thing. This apple does not fall far from my childhood tree. D&D_2234

*Why does this come up so often? Because childhood food is really good food. That is why.

My Favorite Mushroom Asparagus Pasta … so far.

This is a recipe that I got from Giada Delaurentiis. No, I realize that I am so spelling that wrong. I am sure, maybe. I have eliminated walnuts from the original recipe and added garlic and some onions but the basic recipe is still the most important part: 1/2 pound of ridged pasta – penne. Lots of mushrooms – about a pound and then a pound of asparagus cut into pieces. And the most part is the mascarpone. Heavenly. Of course & Parmesan as always, and with me some fresh lemon zest and lemon juice to brighten up any creamy kind of pasta. You really do not need salt for this, in my mind. If you do the lemon thing. Which pretty much do every time. I do need a lemon zester at the office – who does that – no. one. except, maybe, me. Is that a bad thing or does that just make me the food snob that everyone thinks I am? Not sure. Sigh.D&D_2242

8 ozs penne pasta
olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*
1 bundle of asparagus, a pound or s,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates. Add garlic and sauté for another minute more.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables . Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir again.

Serve with extra Parmesan for serving. A lemon wedge would not go amiss here.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination. Purchase cremini if you have the option. Just saying.

BBQ Braised Beef Sandwiches

This is a Cooking Light recipe from 2005 (I think). I have modified it a bit, kind of a lot, but the flavors work really well. It makes a great sandwich. And great leftovers and if you are lucky there will be some to put in the freezer for a few weeks from now and a very easy dinner – or lunch.D&D_2215

1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, whole
2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs McCormick Montreal blend (can’t say enough good things about this)
15 ozs can beef broth, low sodium
4 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 cup sweet hickory barbecue sauce (Bull’s Eye)
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
~~~
Rolls – French Hamburger Buns
Slaw (homemade) – see below

In a large cold pot, put 2 Tbs of oil and add sliced onions and garlic cloves. Heat on low until onions are soft but not browned. Add McCormick Montreal blend, beef broth and chuck roast (cutting it in half if necessary). It does not look like enough liquid, but we are braising people. Not boiling. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover. Simmer three hours, turning the meat every half an hour or so. This is rather forgiving.

When the beef is just falling apart, remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Shred with forks and add barbecue sauce and cranberry sauce and stir well to combine. Heat over low until heated through.

Serve on buns, or cool and refrigerate for the next day (good idea!).

Okay – now for cole slaw. Another no recipe recipe – sorry – sometimes this is just the way I cook.

Equal parts Duke’s mayonnaise and sour cream – a pinch of salt, a couple grinds of black pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Taste. Then add enough sugar to balance the vinegar – this is a total personal preference thing. Now here is where things get interesting. I always make the dressing first and then add in enough cole slaw mixture to make it – not sure how to word this – not too soupy and not to dry. Is that helpful? I think not.

D&D_2208It is, however, the way my mom made cole slaw and it works for me. Although I purchase cole slaw mix instead of shaving a whole cabbage, like my mom did. I do tend to make a bunch of small batches of slaw instead of a big bowl because, to my mind, cole slaw gets messy after a day or so. By using a small bowl, it helps with proportions and makes enough for a day or two – then you can do it all again and make more later in the week.

30 October 2017

Apricot, Ham, Cheddar, and Chicken Sandwich

I cannot remember when I started making this open-faced sandwich but it was an immediate favorite in this house. It seems odd at first, but it really works when you think about all the flavors mixed together. A little tart from the vinegar, some mustard, apricot jam for sweetness, then ham (pork is never bad in any form) and a sharp cheddar. It is a very special combination. And heats up well as a left over in the oven – or in my case in the toaster oven at the office – work lunch hack – woo hoo. If I can get it – usually the MotH and the Boy do not let me get much in the way of leftovers. But I guess that just means they like it  – a lot. And so do I.

D&D_21211/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 French bread, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves – way more than that.
1/3 pound thinly sliced tavern ham, yes, specify tavern ham – I’ve tried others and this is the best.
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, deli sliced

Between two pieces of plastic wrap or inside a gallon plastic zip-top bag, pound the chicken slightly until it is more even. It does not need to be super thin, just a little more even. Makes for easier (quicker) marinade and more even cooking. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add vinegar, mustard, and chicken. I don’t even measure at this point any more. Once you do this enough, and once you taste it you will, you will get the hang of it.  You can also add a mashed garlic clove, but I have given up on that little bit trouble – not necessary in the taste department, to us anyway. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator. Over night is best, but not much longer than that.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil,  turning at least once until opaque throughout. Check by cutting into chicken to see if it cooked through. Transfer chicken to work surface and discard foil. Reline the baking sheet with new foil.

Place baguette on baking sheet, cut side up (duh). Spread each piece with apricot preserves, layer with chicken, ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Source: Martha Stewart with my modifications.