Archive for January, 2012


Lemony Pasta meets Peppered Bacon

I am back from Barcelona and have had some wonderfully spiced and flavorful foods during my time there. I believe we could all take some pointers from the Spaniards on how to cook food as it seems they love the process–the seasoning, the roasting, the aging, the frying–as much as I do 😀 For now I have renewed adoration for the tasty variations of thinly sliced and salted meats, be it Serrano ham, bacon, and (still my absolute favorite) prosciutto. Mmmm.. Somehow I am STILL craving citrus in this, the sixth month of my pregnancy, and decided to make a dish that had both light and rich elements, plenty of fiber (’cause I can’t get enough of that these days), vegetables, and some peppered protein.

The original version of this dish I got from next month’s edition of Eating Well, while I did add the bacon, cauliflower, and double the cheese (cheese!) I also like my pasta to have a little more moisture so I used 3 eggs in addition to olive oil and lemon juice for the sauce. I remember reading in authentic Italian cooking magazines about the practice of adding beaten eggs to pasta dishes to contribute texture (and protein), just remember that when you do so the pasta should be steaming hot. Anyway, so the title of my recipe may be elaborate, but I’m feeling a little extravagant these days so why shouldn’t my verbage? 😉 Although it does describe the dish very well with its mix of richness and freshness (what I mean is enough fat and vegetables, ’cause we all need a bit of both)..

The star ingredient in this recipe is the bacon. Why? Because bacon is already awesome on its own and contributes this awesomeness to anything you may add it to. Maybe it’s the American in me that just loves the taste of bacon, so much it might be criminal 😉 So it amps up your cholesterol, that just means we don’t need to be eating it all the time 😦 but I have been inspired with all the (yes, fatty) salted meats I had the pleasure of sampling in Spain so I thought I’d use its mystical powers to add a little attitude (ahem, sodium) to this vegetable-filled dish.

Lemony Linguine with Sautéed Leeks, Peppered Bacon, & Steamed Cauliflower

Ingredients

3 lemons

1 head of cauliflower

1 packet of sliced bacon

1 bunch of leeks, white and pale green parts chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

1 packet (18 oz or 500 g) of whole-wheat pasta

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

3 eggs, beaten

olive oil

sea salt & ground black pepper

(1) Fill the bottom of a large pot with 2 inches of salted water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. In the meantime, wash and trim the head of cauliflower, breaking into small florets. When the water is boiling, put all cauliflower pieces into a strainer and place in the pot, cover with lid, and steam the vegetables until soft, 5-7 minutes. Remove cauliflower, set aside, and cover. (2) Add more water to the pot until it is about halfway full (and a pinch more salt). Bring to a boil for the pasta. Meanwhile zest 2 of the lemons and reserve for juicing, cut the remaining lemon into wedges for serving. (3) Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add bacon and fry 3-5 minutes, turning once and seasoning with plenty of pepper until bacon is cooked (not crispy). Remove from pan and put on a plate lined with paper towels. Cover to keep from drying out (and any stray snacking). (4) In the frying pan heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Add the chopped leek and minced garlic, cooking until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. (5) When the pot of salted water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return pasta to the pot, immediately stirring in the beaten eggs. Over very low heat, add the cauliflower, lemon zest, 1/3 of the fresh parsley, the leeks, and use a pair of scissors to cut the bacon into medium-sized pieces as you add it to pasta. Season liberally with salt and pepper and add 3 Tbs. olive oil for moisture (or more if needed), and half of the cheese. Mix well. (6) When ready to dish up, remove pasta from heat. Juice 2 of the lemons into pasta, stir, and divide among 4 bowls. Garnish with a generous layer of grated cheese, ground pepper, and a pinch of minced parsley. Serve with lemon wedges on the side

Serves 4

So once again, pasta has proven to be one of those versatile, hearty, and healthy dishes that’s simple to prepare and easy to eat! As the (chilly) month of February comes around, I will need to come up with some more economically-minded recipes (not that bacon isn’t cheap…) to fit my dismal winter budget. Wish me luck with that 😀

My question: What is your favorite (fattiest) meat to eat?

I’m thinking some of the more tastefully sinful cuts…prosciutto, lamb chops, (and yes, bacon) or anything else that packs a punch (of flavor I mean;-)

1.29.12

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Homemade Barbecued Pork Ribs

The last meal I made with my family over the holidays was barbecued pork ribs 😀 Personally, I may have missed the spicy-sugary taste of barbecue sauce but I was definitely missing the whole eat-off-the-bone experience. With ribs it seems, the more time you put into them, the more taste you get out of them (I made that up myself..) and can prove to be an all-intensive process. I reduced marinade, let the ribs soak in it overnight, grilled and basted them over slow heat, and made my own barbecue sauce. I’m thinking I may have gone a bit overboard on the whole DIY concept but hey, you don’t get to make ribs from scratch every day! (At least I couldn’t;-)

The rib recipe I refer to here is from December’s Food & Wine and originally involved Root Beer. After perusing through a couple of cooking magazines with my brother, we quickly established that any meat you serve marinated in and covered with sauces made from Coca-Cola will be tasty, at the very least 🙂 The spiciness in this barbecue comes from ground black peppercorns, a simple combination since there’s so many different and more colorful chilies and spices to choose from out there but black pepper pairs wonderfully with vanilla bean (and just when you thought vanilla couldn’t get any better!) My advice to spice enthusiasts, add 1/2-1 Tablespoon extra ground black pepper to your barbecue sauce if you want it really spicy.

Perhaps needless to say at this point, the star ingredient in the ribs recipe is Coca-Cola. And why not?! I initially thought that the taste might be overshadowed by some of the other flavorful ingredients but that wasn’t the case. Apparently boiling something down over time only contributes to the flavor :] This is making me think that you could probably boil any soda down to its sauce form, like Dr. Pepper steak sauce or chicken cutlets with Fanta reduction. I should start considering soda an ingredient (is it that bad? Doesn’t cooking making it any better? I hope so…)

Slightly inspired by the whole farewell ‘grilling theme’, I made another recipe, this one from last June’s Food & Wine, which is a salad with grilled oyster mushrooms and green grapes, chilled celery and butter lettuce. Salad and barbecue just sound like the perfect combination.. I have included both recipes in this post, let’s call it le grill menu. The two go awfully well together and the ribs were so delicious I was eating them with my fingers a quarter of the way through, probably covered with a little barbecue sauce too. I was not the only one though 🙂

Grilled Pork Ribs with Coca-Cola Lime Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

(for the marinade)

2 cans of Coca-Cola

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 head of garlic, peeled & crushed

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup cold water

2 racks of pork ribs (about 5 lbs. or 2.3 kilos)

(for barbecue sauce)

3 cans of Coca-Cola

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 ts. salt

2 vanilla beans, split & scraped for seeds (or 2 Tbs. vanilla extract)

cooking/grilling spray

(1) To make the marinade, boil Coca-Cola, fish sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, shallots, and vinegar for 1 minute over high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes; uncover and let cool. Add the olive oil and cold water, stir, and transfer to a ziploc bag or large dish before adding the pork ribs. Cover/seal and marinate meat overnight in the fridge. (2) While cleaning and preheating the grill (on medium), let ribs come to room temperature, uncovered 20-45 minutes. (3) In a medium saucepan, mix the vanilla bean, black pepper, and 3 cans of coke. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 25-35 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt, simmering over low heat for 2 minutes. Strain and discard the vanilla bean and remove pan from heat. (4) When cooled, stir in the garlic and chili powder, seasoning barbecue sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (5) Once grill has preheated, drain the marinade from ribs, reserving about 1 cup for basting. Spray ribs with cooking spray and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, to sear each side, about 10 minutes total. (6) Put heat to low and continue grilling the ribs, turning often, and basting every 5-7 minutes until cooked (edges of the meat will begin to pull away from the bone), about 35-45 minutes. Remove ribs from the grill, slather in barbecue sauce, and cover with foil, letting rest for 10 minutes. (7) Before eating, cut between each rib with a sharp knife. Serve pork ribs with lime wedges and a side of barbecue sauce.

Serves 4

Grilled Grape & Mushroom Butter Leaf Salad with Mustard-Celery Seed Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. walnut oil

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbs. celery seeds

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

3 green onions, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. white wine

salt & cracked pepper

(for the salad)

1 head of butter lettuce, stemmed & torn

1 cup fresh sprouts

1 cup green grapes

1/2 cup fresh celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup celery leaves

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms

1/4 cup roasted & salted whole almonds

(1) To make vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients, walnut oil through white wine above, in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt & pepper (adding more champagne vinegar, if needed:-) Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) Wash and dry salad greens, combining the celery leaves, parsley leaves, butter lettuce, and sprouts in a salad bowl. Refrigerate. (3) Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and clean racks with lemon halves. When hot, grill the oyster mushrooms, turning once, until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Also grill the green grapes on a strip of foil until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove both from grill and let cool about 2 minutes. (4) Next, add sliced celery and roasted almonds to the salad greens. When ready to serve, toss salad with grilled mushrooms and grapes and 5 Tbs. of the salad vinaigrette. Serve immediately 🙂

Serves 4

So, at last my desire for grilled food has been satisfied }:-) for now…I will see what new inspirations come with visiting wonderfully flavorful Espania! I already miss cooking with my family, but at least I’ll be coming up with some more meaty meals since my little brother will be here and cooking with me by the end of the week, in my uber tiny European kitchen too 😀

My question: What is your favorite style of barbecue sauce?

It seems like every city has one. There’s Memphis (sweet and salty), Kansas City (tomato-based), and St. Lious (tangy) barbecue and the list goes on and on..

1.13.12