Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rotini with Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese

Here's the second take of a recipe I tried almost a year ago. Some critiques of the way I carried out the recipe back were reason enough for a re-do. The most annoying result of my first attempt was that the peas rolled to the bottom of my bowl, leaving me to eat a pile of pasta and sausage followed by a pile of peas. I wised up this time, being sure to smash the peas like the author intended and gave them even more support by using the groovy rotini.

Rotini with Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese
adapted from Genesis of a Cook
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb frozen peas, thawed
7 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1 bunch of basil leaves, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
salt, to taste

Bring a large pot to a boil on medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic; once fragrant add the sausage.

Use a spatula to break up the sausage into bite size pieces. When sausage starts to brown, after about 5 minutes, set aside in a colander over a bowl allowing fat to drain.

I ended up cooking my sausage almost completely. This is really not necessary.

Add the peas to the pan and using the back of a spatula*, smash the peas. Turn off the heat.

*The original recipe says to use the back of a wooden spoon. I highly recommend this. Silicone spatulas are really slippery and aren't useful when trying to smoosh equally slippery peas.

Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water; drain pasta.

The Barilla rotini was al dente in 7 minutes. If you look at the far left of the second image above, you'll see that I did indeed remember to reserve some pasta water.

Return the pasta immediately to the pot and add ricotta cheese, tossing to coat, adding reserved cooking water in 1/4 cup increments as necessary to moisten the pasta.
Unfortunately, I'd neglected the reserved pasta water. Once I stirred the ricotta into the rotini, I just kept on truckin'. Use your water.

Add the peas, sausage and basil, tossing to coat, adding additional pasta water as necessary. Salt to taste.
Again, I completely forgot the water.

This dish turned out quite well, albeit a little dry. The ricotta in the rotini spirals didn't look exactly appetizing (yeast infection came to mind when reviewing the images) and would've been better dissolved in pasta water, likely offering a smoother, creamier texture. Ah well. The smashing of the peas made difference enough to offset that downside. It was much nicer to have them dispersed throughout the bites rather than finding a pool of peas at the bottom of the bowl. The multi-colored rotini offered a brightness lacking in my first trial, don't you think?

  • tri-color rotini: $2
  • olive oil: $0.08
  • garlic: $0.10
  • hot Italian sausage: $3.99
  • peas: $1.50
  • ricotta cheese: $1.54
  • basil: $1.65
Total: $10.86 or $1.81 for each of six servings.

Barilla Tri-Color Rotini

You can get regular rotini, you know the wheat ones.

Or you can get the ones that are wheat, spinach, and tomato.

I don't know if the tomato and spinach make any effect on the nutrition facts, but they sure do brighten things up. If they could talk, I have a feeling these rotini would sing.

Barilla Tri-color Rotini, available in the pasta aisle of Stater Bros. in a 12-oz box for $1.50. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Food Plan and Grocery List, 042812

I need to get more of what's in the freezer out. While I made some of a dent, the acquisition of chickens, though I ate most of them immediately after purchase, meant more wings, drumsticks and frames going into the freezer. A recipe to use some of that stock and all of those wings are of necessity. And because I don't want to waste the ricotta that's left, I'm going to redo an older recipe.

Bittman wings
Caramelized Potatoes
Shrimp and Spring Vegetable Risotto
Pasta with Peas, Sausage and Ricotta
Chocolate Almond Torte

Grower's Direct:
  • lemon: $0.31/0.39 lb
  • asparagus: $2.19/1.10 lb
  • sugar/Chinese/snow peas: $0.75/0.30 lb
  • onion: $0.27/0.55 lb
  • pineapple: $3.52/5.10 lb
  • fresh basil: $1.65/0.15 oz
  • TOTAL: $8.69

Stater Bros:
  • Stater Bros medium (51-60) shrimp: $9.98/2 lb
  • Alta Dena 2% milk: $0.99/pint
  • Stater Bros cage-free eggs: $3.79/dozen
  • Stater Bros frozen green peas: $1.50/lb
  • Barilla rotini: $1.50/12 oz
  • Barilla rotini: $1.50/12 oz
  • Ghirardelli bittersweet chips: $4.29/10-oz
  • Ghirardelli bittersweet chips: $4.29/10-oz
  • Stater Bros hot Italian sausage: $3.99/lb
  • TOTAL: $31.83

Grand Total: $40.52
Total for the year: $834.77

I still need to buy some Arborio rice.

Crispy Lemon Chicken

Crispy Lemon Chicken and Thyme-Roasted Spring Vegetables

Other than the chicken, this recipe only calls for five ingredients. The part that really cinched it for me though is crisping the thighs under the weight of cast iron. Don't ask me why, it just seems so...effective. The last time I tried that technique I burned the crap out of a sandwich.

Crispy Lemon Chicken
click to print

4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (1 to 1 1/4 lb.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp grated lemon peel
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 thick lemon slices

Sprinkle chicken with salt and cayenne pepper.

Lift skin from chicken; rub meat with lemon peel.

Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot.

Place chicken in skillet, skin-side down. Cover with foil; top with another skillet or heavy large pan to weight down.

Cook 12 minutes; remove top skillet.

Turn chicken; top with foil and second skillet.

Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until no longer pink in center. Remove chicken.

Add lemon slices to skillet; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until lemon begins to turn golden brown, turning once and rubbing lemon on bottom of skillet.

Serve chicken with lemons.

This is some really good chicken! The skin was satisfyingly crispy while the flesh was succulently tender and moist. The lemon was just a hint, so you might consider jamming more than the called-for amount of zest under the skin before cooking. Maybe drizzling some of the pan-juices over the chicken upon serving would satisfy the lemon craving too. And yes, I could've eaten the finished lemon slices, but the 5-year-old in me refused to try them.

The process was a little something to be desired. The blurb about the recipe said, "Some spattering occurs at the start of the cooking process but will stop when the chicken is pressed with a second skillet." That's wrong. It's more like "A lot of spattering occurs at the start of the cooking process but dimishes when the chicken is pressed with a second skillet." It doesn't stop. My stove-top is a wreck.

Will there be a next time? Of course! It's pretty quick and the results are fantastic. I will make sure to point the edges of the foil downward to at least minimize the spatter radius.

  • chicken thighs: $1.92
  • lemon: $0.27
  • olive oil: $0.08
Total: $2.27 or about $1.14 for each of two servings.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oatmeal Trials, Week 2

Day 1:

That's almond milk, oats and coarsely diced hunk of apple.

Day 2:
More of the same.
Day 3:

Even more of the same. It's pretty thick each time.

Day 4:
I had chocolate torte instead.

Day 5:
What can I say, the torte is really good.

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 042712

Friday: Taco Factory, on a coworker

Total: $0
Total for the year: $672.65

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thyme-Roasted Spring Vegetables

This recipe was on the Easter pages of the Cooking Club magazine opposite the Passover recipes. These vegetables were supposed to accompany a ham, but I'm going to eat it with chicken.

Thyme-Roasted Spring Vegetables
2 tsp lemon juice
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 lb. small red new potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
8 oz. thin carrots with 1 inch of tops, halved lengthwise
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb. asparagus

Peel artichoke stems. Starting at base of artichokes, peel back, snap off and discard tough outer leaves, leaving tender inner leaves surrounding choke. Halve artichokes through stems. Cut large artichokes into eighths; remove inner choke with spoon. Place in large bowl of water with lemon juice. Click here if you want a visual.

Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add artichokes.

Reduce heat to medium; cook 3 to 7 minutes (depending on size) or until crisp-tender. Drain well. (Artichokes can be prepared to this point 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Heat oven to 425°F. Whisk oil, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper in small bowl.

Toss artichokes, potatoes, carrots, shallot, garlic and three-fourths of the oil mixture in large bowl; arrange on rimmed baking sheet.
Attempting to toss the vegetables in the bowl was much like mixing marbles and railroad ties together -- the carrots didn't cooperate. I finished tossing them after transferring to the baking sheet.

Toss asparagus with remaining oil mixture.

Bake artichoke mixture 25 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through.
These images show that yes, I stirred halfway through.

Remove from oven; stir.

Arrange asparagus over vegetables; bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. (Vegetables can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat on rimmed baking sheet at 350°F. for 5 to 10 minutes.)

Roasted vegetables of any sort are really very good and these are no exception. That they are dressed in a tasty mixture just puts them over the top. The dressing would be perfectly suitable if you were to roast only one type of vegetable or even tossed with salad greens.

The only thing about this recipe, and really, roasting any combination of vegetables, is that you need to get the size ratios right. My potatoes were still quite firm while the carrots and artichokes turned out nearly perfect. The asparagus? You couldn't ask for anything better!

  • artichokes: $2.98
  • lemon: $0.27
  • thyme: $0.65
  • new potatoes: $2.79
  • carrots: $0.99
  • shallot: $0.18
  • garlic: $0.20
  • asparagus: $2.07
TOTAL: $10.13. The magazine says you'll get 12 servings. I got 6 servings, making them $1.69 each.