new spring recipes
One of the suggestions in the Cook’s comments was to prep all the ingredients beforehand such as making your garlic paste (I use a microplane), make the stir-fry sauce, chop the pepper and scallions and prepare the cornstarch slurry. This will allow a smooth flow when cooking.
The recipe starts by “velveting the chicken.” This Chinese practice calls for marinating pieces of meat with egg whites and cornstarch before frying in hot oil. In Ms. Shah’s recipe, the chicken is marinated in a combination of whisked egg and cornstarch that has been seasoned with freshly grated garlic, salt and pepper. The chicken sits for 30 minutes before cooking. The chicken is stir-fried for 2 to 3 minutes per side then set aside and kept warm. In the same pan the dried chiles, or in my case I substituted red pepper flakes, are cooked for a minute. Next, the ketchup sauce, chicken stock (or water) and bell peppers are sautéed. Mix to combine; next in is the cornstarch slurry to thicken sauce. Lastly, add chicken and toss to combine; top with spring onions and serve atop rice.
This dish was wonderful. It had a nice complexity of flavors, with no one ingredient overpowering the other, but working in harmony. It had a nice kick of heat as I substituted gochujang sauce for the chile-garlic sauce. A delightful dish to add to the rotation.
Another recipe that caught my eye from the same column was by Eric Kim for Ricotta Pasta alla Vodka. The recipe is adapted from one by Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi for pasta all’infuriata, or furious pasta. The recipe is similar to penne alla vodka but takes a cue from a now closed Manhattan restaurant, Caffe Falai, by adding dollops of ricotta cheese to help quell the spicy flavors and add another layer of richness.
For the recipe you’ll need kosher salt, olive oil, 4 slices (6 ounces) of coarsely chopped bacon, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, fresh garlic cloves, freshly ground black pepper, tomato paste (double concentrate if you can find), vodka, pasta (fusilli, penne or rigatoni), heavy cream, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, a cup of whole milk ricotta and freshly chopped parsley or basil for garnish.
The bacon for this recipe is merely for the fat that it renders which is needed to cook the rest of the dish. I keep a jar of bacon fat in my refrigerator. I might also suggest using pancetta for a bit more Italian in flavor.
Into the rendered bacon fat, sauté the red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic. Next the chopped onion along with salt and pepper. The five tablespoons of tomato paste are added and cooked until a deep red. Off heat, add the vodka. While the recipe suggests 3/4 to 1 cup, I found the vodka a little to pronounced on the palate. It may have been the quality of the vodka I chose or my taste for something subtler. On the other hand, my husband had no complaints. Return the sauce to the heat and reduce; add heavy cream and lower heat to simmer and warm the sauce. Remove from heat. I would suggest at this point to remove the garlic cloves, hence you forget and someone eats one by mistake, which happened to my husband.
Cook the pasta according to directions, but save two cups of water before draining. Return the pasta to the pot and add sauce, cheese and enough pasta water until the sauce reaches desired consistency. I did not add the 1 cup that the recipe called for. Cook the pasta over medium-high heat; turn the pasta vigorously until the pasta is glossy.
Talk about decadent, this rich and velvety sauce made the pasta so luxurious. It is quite filling, but oh so good.
The next evening, we turned down the richness and had a recipe by New York Times contributor, Ali Slagle, for Sheet-Pan Kielbasa with Cabbage and Beans. I had in my mind where I wanted to purchase my kielbasa, however, they were out of stock. I decided to try Dutch Hill Farm Market in Spring Lake Heights, NJ. This butcher shop, owned by a US Marine veteran. The cattle is born and raised in New Jersey and are all natural, no antibiotics or hormones, pasture raised and finished by dry aging.
The kielbasa I selected was applewood smoked made from Kurobuta pork. While the kielbasa was delicious, it was quite expensive, $18.50/lb. I indulged with this purchase as I was supporting a small, local business.
Besides the kielbasa, you’ll also need Savoy cabbage (you can also use green or red cabbage), extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, red wine vinegar, fresh dill, a shallot, Dijon mustard and one 14-ounce can of Great Northern or cannellini beans.
This easy sheet pan meal takes just 35 minutes from start to finish. The cored Savoy cabbage is cut into 1-inch wedges and is tossed with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Atop the cabbage you place 1/4”-inch diagonally sliced kielbasa. The meal roasts in a 450° oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until deeply golden. The beans are drained, rinsed and coated with a dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. Added to the dressing are chopped fresh dill, finely chopped shallot, salt and freshly ground pepper.
To serve, each person receives cabbage and kielbasa and topped with the white bean salad.
This was a delightful meal. The kielbasa became crispy around the edges. If you use smoked kielbasa, you may want to consider adding it midway in cooking, just heat it through. My kielbasa was smoked, it didn’t need to cook as long as it did. The Savoy cabbage had a slight sweetness and mild in flavor. Adding the white bean salad on top really enhanced the overall dish. My husband said he could enjoy the bean salad on its own. Another weeknight winner.
The last recipe I made this week was for Cheesy White Bean-Baked Tomato. This is a perfect meal for those Lenten fasting or vegetarians looking for a tasty meal. The recipe is from Ali Slagle of The New York Times and their supplement “24 Kid-Friendly Recipes.”
For the dish you’ll need extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves of fresh garlic, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2–15-ounce cans of white beans (cannellini or Great Northern) or chickpeas
1/2 cup of boiling water, salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1/3-pound (1-1/3 cups) of grated mozzarella. I added a few pinches of Sicilian oregano for additional flavor. The recipe, made in one, oven-going pan, is done in 15 minutes. You merely brown thinly sliced garlic in the oil; then sauté the tomato paste for 30 seconds. This is done to achieve a cooked flavor from the raw paste making it sweeter and have greater depth of flavor. Next drained beans and boiling water are added to the pan and seasoned with salt and pepper. Everything is combined followed by a topping of grated mozzarella. The beans are baked at 475° oven for 5 to 10 to melt and brown the cheese. At the same time, I coated slices of Italian bread with olive oil and browned along with the beans.
I served my husband and I a portion, to which he added some red pepper flakes for a bit of kick, and a piece of Italian bread. What a tasty meal! The beans were wonderful, browning the tomato paste yielded a rich flavorsome sauce. I did find it hard to believe that Ms. Slagle indicates that this serves 4 people. The beans were delicious and we devoured the entire pan. I don’t think that the serving size that my husband and I had were overly generous, but I do feel this recipe best feeds 2 people. We had a few slices of toasted Italian bread and a salad afterwards. Our appetites were satisfied from this humble dish.
By Zainab Shah
The New York Times, “What to Make Next Week”
March 18, 2023
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 Minutes
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic paste or freshly grated garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
Fine sea salt
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ¾-inch cubes
⅓ cup vegetable oil
3 whole dried dundicut chiles or bird’s-eye chiles
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup chile-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
1 cup chicken stock (optional)
1 bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut into ¾-inch pieces
3 spring onions or 1 medium scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
Cooked white rice or fried rice, for serving
If you want to make your own chile-garlic sauce, I found a recipe on line using Fresno chiles.
Ricotta Pasta alla Vodka
By Eric Kim
The New York Times, “What to Cook Next Week”
March 18, 2023
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
Time: 30 Minutes
“In a 1974 cookbook, the Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi published a recipe for pasta all’infuriata, furious pasta, a chile-and-vodka-spiked tomato number. It’s one of the first written accounts of the Russian liquor in pasta and may be related to the penne alla vodka that has been a staple of many Italian American menus. For good reason: The alcohol is said to help fat disperse more evenly, keeping the sauce glossy and creamy, and to enhance the sharp heat and deep savory flavors of the dish. The ricotta serving suggestion draws inspiration from the creamy tomato soup with three dollops of cool, sweet ricotta on top from the now-closed Caffe Falai in Manhattan’s NoLIta neighborhood. The ricotta lends coolness both in temperature and in flavor, lending relief between bites of spicy booziness.”
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices thick-cut bacon (6 ounces), coarsely chopped
1½ teaspoons red-pepper flakes*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 large garlic cloves, crushed but left whole
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably double-concentrated
¾ to 1cup vodka, depending on how boozy you want it*
1-pound fusilli, penne or rigatoni
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, finely grated (1 cup)
1 cup/8 ounces whole-milk ricotta
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil, for serving
I would suggest starting out with ¼ to ½ cup of vodka. I used ¾ cup and found it a bit boozy for my taste. Also, 1-1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes made it spicy. Again, start with less, ¾ to 1 teaspoon; you could also add more at the table.
Sheet-Pan Kielbasa with Cabbage and Beans
By Ali Slagle
The New York Times, “24 Kid-Friendly Recipes”
March 19, 2023
Time: 35 Minutes
1 medium Savoy cabbage (2 to 2½ pounds), cut through the root into 1-inch-thick wedges
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for tossing the cabbage
Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) and black pepper
8 ounces to 1-pound smoked kielbasa, diagonally sliced ¼-inch thick
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 (14-ounce) can white beans, such as great Northern or cannellini, drained and rinsed
Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake
By Ali Slagle
The New York Times, “The New York Times, “24 Kid-Friendly Recipes”
March 19, 2023
Time: 15 Minutes
“For those of you who love lasagna's edges, where sticky tomato meets crisp cheese, this whole dish is for you — even the middle. A tube of tomato paste here mimics the deep flavors of sun-dried tomato. Frying a few generous squeezes caramelizes the tomato's sugars and saturates the olive oil, making a mixture that's ready to glom onto anything you stir through it. Here, it’s white beans, though you could add in kale, noodles, even roasted vegetables. Then, all that’s left to do is dot it with cheese and bake until it’s as molten or singed as you like. Serve with bread and a bitter-green salad.”
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (such as cannellini or Great Northern) or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup boiling water
Salt and black pepper
⅓ pound mozzarella, coarsely grated (about 1⅓ cups)
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A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.