Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lemon Farfalle with Shrimp and Asparagus


Pasta, shrimp and asparagus? So very good. Here, take a bite!

Rodney's not a huge fan of pasta, which can be disappointing and occasionally frustrating. But when I'm making the grocery list and whip out "pasta, shrimp, asparagus" as an option, Rodney might be game.  This time, it was a direct hit.

Lemon Farfalle with Shrimp and Asparagus

1 (14-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
1/3 c lemon juice
1/4 c plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
8 oz. farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
1 lb. asparagus, cut into 3-inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 lb. shelled, deveined uncooked medium shrimp
1/2 c grated Romano Parmesan cheese, divided

Combine garbanzo beans, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in medium bowl.


Cook farfalle according to package directions, adding asparagus during last 3 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the rest.


Meanwhile, cook garlic and crushed red pepper in remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is tender.


Add shrimp; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink, turning once.


Add garbanzo beans; cook 2 minutes or until warmed through.


Add farfalle, reserved cooking water and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook and stir until farfalle is coated with sauce.


Remove from heat; stir in nearly all, or all, of the cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese if you reserved any.


Serve.



While I knew this was going to be good, I didn't realize exactly how good it would be!  I think it's Rachel Ray that would say, "YUMMO!"  I've never seen her show but I have heard that's her catchy annoying little phrase.

Again, YUMMO!  This stuff is simply fantastic!  The garbanzo beans in the mix were a little weird and had a tendency to roll to the bottom of the bowls, but still, an excellent recipe.  Both Rodney and I enjoyed it. I really liked how the perfectly cooked asparagus was done in the pot of pasta, saving time, water and energy. 

Because the recipe didn't call for it, I didn't bother to use fresh lemon juice.  Next time, I'll be sure to do just that as it would as a little bit more of sour zing-zowie against the slight heat of the crushed pepper, possibly putting the recipe in the rankings for a Rodney's Picks award.  While I'm at it, I might cut the asparagus into 1.5-2" pieces, making it a little easier to eat -- I'll be sure to add the asparagus a little later in the pasta cooking time to accomodate, but not by much.

Cost:
  • garbanzo beans: $0.89
  • farfalle pasta: $0.50
  • asparagus: $2.33/1.17 lb
  • garlic: $0.14/bulb
  • shrimp: $3.50
  • Parmesan cheese: $0.75
Total: $8.11 or $2.03 for each of four servings.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach, Basil and Parmesan


This recipe from an old copy of Cooking Pleasures magazine has only ingredients I like: chicken, spinach, fresh basil (yum!), garlic and tomatoes.  I had always put this one off just because of the quantity, but this time, I couldn't pass it up.  I increased the amount of bread crumbs from 6 tbsp to about 1/2-3/4 cups because I can't stand to run out of breading when my fingers are all gooey.


6 tsp olive oil, divided
1 medium white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (5-oz.) bag baby spinach, chopped
2/3 c fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 (14 1/2-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
6 tbsp Italian-seasoned dry bread crumbs

In large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion; cook 2 minutes or until onion just begins to wilt.


Add garlic; cook 30 to 60 seconds or until fragrant.
 

Add spinach, basil, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute or until spinach and basil are limp.

Add tomatoes; increase heat to high.


Cook 8 minutes or until almost all liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.


Place in large bowl; refrigerate until completely cooled. Wipe skillet clean. Heat oven to 350°F.

With small sharp knife, cut pocket in each chicken breast, cutting almost to other side but not all the way through.

Spoon about 1/3 cup filling into each pocket; secure with toothpicks.


Place bread crumbs in shallow bowl. Dip chicken in bread crumbs to coat both sides.

In same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken breasts in batches; cook 3 minutes or until browned on all sides.


Place in shallow baking dishes (I used two 8x11's).


Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown and chicken is no longer pink in center. During last 5 minutes of baking, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.


A bit of a pain to make, especially if the chicken isn't sliced evenly meaning that the toothpicks wind up shredding the chicken instead of becoming firmly seated.  Also, I wouldn't try preparing this if you are in a rush as I'm confident having cool/cold filling is necessary to assist in keeping it in the breast. The near 2 hours and effort was worth it -- this chicken tasted fantastic!

I wonder if it will freeze well, making a convenient meal for another day (or two).

Cost:
  • onion: $0.20
  • spinach: $1.99
  • fresh basil: $4
  • tomatoes: $0.80
  • Parmesan cheese: $1
  • chicken breasts: $6
Total: $13.99 or about $2.33 for each of six servings.  Nice. 


Cast Iron Grill Pan


Shiny, newly-seasoned cast iron grill pan.

I cleaned out my pantry/cookwear-holding sales desk and came across this nasty beast.


About a year ago, I bought this grill pan from Tuesday Morning. I seasoned it according to the manufacturer's directions, didn't do a very good job of it thinking that a lot of oil was necessary, and proceeded to use it for Tandoori Chicken.

I was dissatisfied with having to season the cast iron again, so simply washed it in soap and water and stuck it where I wouldn't set eyes on it again -- until today.

Now that I have a better idea of how to season cast iron, I figured I may as well do it.

Into a sink of hot, soapy water that grill pan went. I scrubbed it clean with a wire brush.

Once washed and rinsed well, the cast iron was placed over a burner with medium flame to dry.


While still hot, I poured a little too much vegetable oil on top. Last time, when I did this, it was with a skillet and paper towel worked well to smear the oil around. This time, I used a brush to work the oil into the crevices and then all over the back side.


Then I put the cast iron in the oven, thinking I'd bake it later on. And I forgot about it for 2 days until tonight when I preheated the oven for dinner. The oven was stinky but I figured I must've spilled or dropped something in there that would burn off eventually and ignored it.

Soon enough I found it in there and that baby was beautiful! I can't wait to try it out.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sandwich Steak in Pizzaiola Sauce


Steak covered in tomato-based sauce with a fluffy side of mashed potatoes.

Here's one from an older copy of Cooking Pleasures magazine.  I decided to try it since it looked fast and easy, plus I'd always wondered what pizzaiola sauce would taste like after seeing Ray's mom, Marie, covet her family recipe on Everybody Loves Ray.


1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 lb. top round or top sirloin steak (1/4 inch thick), cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 c diced tomatoes
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
3 to 4 drops hot pepper sauce, if desired
3 tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley

Cut steak into pieces if you haven't yet.


Place oil and garlic in large skillet. Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until garlic is golden brown, stirring constantly. Press down on garlic to release juices; discard garlic.

Add steaks. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until steaks are brown, turning once. Place on serving platter.


Add tomatoes, oregano, salt and hot pepper sauce to skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; boil 4 to 5 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. This happened almost instantaneously for me due to having used less juicy Roma tomatoes and probably less than the amount called for.


Stir in parsley.


Pour (or in my case, spread) sauce over steaks.


Hmm.  The steak I bought was not a good one and was pretty tough even though it was cooked for just 2 minutes.  And I think Marie's pizzaoila sauce was better than this too.  Rodney didn't even try this dish.  The potatoes were great though, so all was not lost.

Cost:
  • steak: $3.11/1.25 lb
  • tomatoes: $2
  • parsley: $0.33/bunch
Total: $5.44 or $1.35 per each of four servings.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Amarillos, aka Maduros, aka Sauteed Ripe Plantains


When I was in Puerto Rico, I tasted plenty of plantains in various forms, primarily as tostones and mofongo. Neither impressed me too much (until I had good mofongo rellenos anyway). Amarillos, though, rocked my socks off. I loved them and found it unimaginable that they were the same non-banana that is used for the, uh, drier plantain recipes.

The key, according to Rodney's uncle's girlfriend was to wait until the plantain is black and fully ripe. Then it's just a matter of peeling, slicing, and frying for a few minutes. Say what? That's it? That's all that's to making these bits of yellow-brown heaven? Tostones go through a huge ordeal to be a dry cracker-cookie and these are just fried? Do I need to add sugar? She laughed at me.

After returning to CA, I've had the opportunity to try a Cuban place over in Orange and would you believe it? They had amarillos but called them maduros! I was completely tickled!

Finally the time came for me to try making them for myself. After all, when having chicken and rice, one must have amarillos.

Amarillos

1/4 canola oil
2 ripe plantains

Let the plantains become fully ripe, more ripe than this if you have more patience than I do.


Section the plantains into 2-bite pieces, peel the skin off and then slice the pieces lengthwise while the oil heats in a large skillet.


Place plantain pieces in the oil and stir occasionally until nicely browned, about 10-15 minutes.



Deelicious! Well, they could have been allowed to ripen a tad longer. I can't believe they are this easy to make and so quick! Next time I'll be sure to buy plantains in far enough advance so they can really ripen.

Cost:
$2.50 for 2 plantains