Monthly Archives: January 2009

Parmesan Peppercorn Pasta Bake

Empty cupboards…Empty fridge!  Oh, jeesh!  What’s a girl to do?  Why, turn to her trusty casserole dish, of course.  After being out of town for almost six days, I was plagued with the ever-daunting bare kitchen, and nor the time or the energy for the grocery store.  So, I searched the cupboards high and low.  I needed something quick, tasty, and of course bloggable.  I came up with a sort of fake-out lasagna pasta bake, using a partial box of lasagna noodles, some Italian sausage, and tomato puree.  We really, really enjoyed this dish, and I will definitely remember it when I need another weeknight quickie.

Ingredients

Italian Sausage (I used hot)

Onion

Fresh Garlic

Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles

Tomato Puree (or any canned tomatoes of your liking)

Bay Leaf

Italian Seasoning (or fresh herbs, of course)

Parmesan Cheese

Butter

Flour

Milk

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Kosher Salt

Process

Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil.  Once it reaches a hard boil, add a hefty amount of kosher salt to the water (remember, the water should be just about as salty as sea water, I know it seems like a lot, but pasta needs it).  While the water comes to a boil, slice the sausage into bite size pieces.

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Add the sausage to a frying pan over medium heat( no need to add oil, the sausage has enough fat in it) and allow to brown and cook almost all the way through.

0022While the sausage browns, chop some onion and mince some garlic.

0032When the sausage is almost all the way browned, add the onion and garlic to the pan and continue cooking until sausage is golden and veggies are cooked through.

0051In the meantime, break up your lasagna noodles.  You can really have fun with this.  There is no need for uniform pieces, as long as the sizes are similar (so they cook at the same rate).  The more rustic the better.

006When the sausage is ready, add the tomato puree, salt, pepper, italian seasoning and a bay leaf.

0092By now, the pasta water should be boiling, so go ahead salt it, and add your noodles.  Give them a good stir, until the water returns to a boil.  Since it is now in small pieces, you may need to stir the pasta occasionally so it won’t stick, but just occasionally.  While the pasta cooks you can make the cheese sauce and preheat your broiler.  For the sauce, make a basic roux (you can find a more exact description of how to do this in Meatloaf Meatballs) out of butter and flour.  In this case, the roux should be a blond one.  You want the flour to cook, but not pick up any color.

011After a few minutes, the flour should be cooked through and you can add some milk.  You want the final product to be thick but not stiff.  I suggest starting out with a little more milk than you think you need for this consistency, because it will reduce a little.  Once the sauce comes to a boil, you can reduce the heat and add a hefty handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Stir the sauce until the cheese is completely melted in, then add lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Remember, this is a Parmesan Peppercorn sauce, so it should be really peppery.

015Now, when your pasta is just al dente (after about 7 minutes start checking it by tasting it), drain it, but don’t shake off too much of the cooking water, it helps everything move around well when you combine the pasta with the sauce.  After the pasta is drained, return it to the pot and combine with the red sauce (remember to remove the bay leaf, it is not digestable).

0161Pour half of the pasta into a casserole dish and top with a few dollops of the Parmesan sauce.

0181Add the rest of the pasta and a few more dollops and pop into the broiler to brown the cheese sauce and crisp up the top layer of pasta.  Keep a close eye on it.

020Okay, so my sauce got a little darker than I would have liked, but I swear, those dark spots were the tastiest bits of the entire dish.

0231ENJOY those burned bits!  I sure did.

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Updates Coming Soon!

Dear Loyal Readers,

DO NOT FRET!  I was away for a few days, thus the blog has suffered.  I’ll be back up and running with several posts soon, so keep me on your radar!

-S

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Spice It Up With Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I realized, not long ago, that I have not posted any seafood here on One Bite At A Time.  Like many foodies, I really, really love seafood, and since moving in with DH, I have definitely turned him into a lover of all most victuals of the sea.  Although I don’t have the budget to buy fresh seafood often, I try my best to get it whenever I can, and almost always buy a big bag of frozen shrimp when it’s on sale.  Now, I know that many of my favorite gourmet chefs would denounce anyone who cooks frozen shrimp, but lets face it, most of us regular people can’t afford to buy fresh shrimp at $9.99/lb.  When I do luck out and find the aforementioned shrimp on sale, I have lots and lots of fun experimenting and trying out new flavor combinations.  Here’s a recipe for shrimp fra diavolo that I’ve been making for quite a while now, I usually serve it over plain white rice or pasta, but this time around I thought I’d do a basic parmesan risotto.  The creamy risotto was a great complement to the spicy shrimp.  Of course, feel free to change up the type of tomatoes you use or swap out my choices for your favorite herbs.  As usual, my aim is to provide you with a guide, ideas, and inspiration.  Here it is:

Ingredients

Shrimp

Fresh Basil

Fresh Parsley

Fresh Garlic

Onion

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cayenne Pepper

Crushed Red Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Canned Tomatoes (I used puree, it was on sale)

Process

Begin by heating a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.  While the pan heats, combine the shrimp with salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper.

0021When the pan is hot, add the shrimp.

0031While the shrimp cooks, chop the onion and herbs and mince the garlic.

0014When the shrimp is just pink, remove from the pan and set aside.

005In the same pan, cook the onions and garlic until tender and translucent, but not browned (the heat should be turned down to medium-low).

0072Then add the tomatoes, a little bit of water, and cayenne pepper to taste.   Stir to incorporate.

0081Allow to reduce and thicken, by simmering over low heat (in the meantime, you can prepare the other components of your meal).  Then stir in your herbs, and allow to simmer a little longer.  You want the sauce to pick up the flavor of the fresh herbs.

0091When the rest of your meal is just about complete, toss the shrimp back in the pan, just to coat and reheat.

0101Serve over a piping bowl of your desired starch, and ENJOY this simple, spicy, and succulent delight!

013

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How Do You Feel About My New Theme?

Since I’m getting a little more comfortable with this blogging thing, I thought I’d try cleaning up my page a bit and adding a customizable header to make it more personal.  I’d love to know what all of my lovely readers think.

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Because We Are Addicted…Roasted Brussel Sprouts

So, you’ve now seen brussel sprouts in two of my more recent posts, and you may be picking up on the fact that they have sort of had the effect of a very addictive drug.  Before I made them on Christmas Eve, I had only tasted them once before, and I thought, “Hey, these aren’t so bad.”  I also thought I could make them better.  After seeing a Produce Pete segment on the weekend Today show, just before Christmas, I decided it was time to give it a try (Pete seems to convince me to try a lot of new things).  You can’t imagine the eye rolling and grunting I got from DH when I announced my plans, but I put my foot down, and purchased some (by the way, they are very, very inexpensive).  I browsed recipes on the Internet for a while and finally decided to use a method that I found in an Ina Garten recipe, but jazz it up with bacon and onions.  HUGE HIT!!!  So huge, that when we visit our families in a couple of weeks, I plan to make it as a part of the dinner I’m cooking for everyone.  Even if you think you hate brussels, please give this a try, and remember:  everything is better with bacon.

Ingredients

Brussel Sprouts

Onion

Bacon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Process

Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees.  Then rinse the brussel sprouts and cut each one in half.

022LOOK!  They are pretty.

023Set aside, and then brown small strips of bacon in a large frying pan, over medium heat.

024You can use as much bacon as you would like, I used three slices.  While the bacon is starting to render its fat, dice up some onion.  When the bacon is golden and about halfway to crispy, add in the onion (if your bacon has rendered an excessive amount of fat, you can drain some off).

025When the bacon is crisp (not hard) transfer it, and the onion, to a paper towel to drain and set aside.  Then, add the halved brussel sprouts to the pan (you can skip this step if you don’t want to be bothered, it just gives them a head start), and season with salt and pepper.

026When the brussels are just lightly browned, transfer them to a baking dish (gently, now), coat with olive oil and place in the oven to roast.

028You really want the brussels to get dark and caramelized (I learned this from Mark Bittman of the New York Times, he suggests that brussel sprouts are best when they almost look like you’ve burned them), I cook mine for almost half an hour.  After about 15 minutes, add the bacon and onion to the baking dish and give everything one good stir.  You can check the coloring of the brussels, now.  For me, 10-15 minutes longer, gets them right where I want them.  When they are to your liking, remove them from the oven and dress them with a sprinkle of kosher salt (Ina says you should salt them like french fries).

031Um…just look at them.  How could you not want to just dig in?  They are lovely, a real treat with the crispy outer leaves and soft, sweet center.  Topped off with the smokiness of the bacon and the added sweetness of the onion, it’s really an almost perfect side dish.  Just give them a shot, and ENJOY!

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Chilaxin’ Cheesy Chicken Roll-Ups

Chilaxin’, you say.  Is that a word?  Of course, it’s a word, it’s a nifty combo of chillin’ and relaxin’, exactly what this chicken must be doing after being slathered in cheese and herbs and given a nice hot oil bath.  I have been brainstorming ideas for recipes for the past few days, trying to create something worthy of posting for all of my wonderful readers to enjoy, when this recipe just sort of came together in my head.  I have to say, I really think about food all the time.  I was in the middle of my work day when I got the idea for this dish, and not only did I create the chicken recipe, I also decided on the sides and how I would prepare them.  People always ask where I get my ideas, or where I found a recipe, and honestly it’s always a tough question for me.  Sure, I look at a lot of recipes online and I read quite a few food blogs, but I rarely write anything down or print anything out.  I just kind of store bits and pieces of recipes in the file cabinet that is my brain, and use everything I’ve stored to do my own thing.  I really feel this is the best way to keep things interesting, and I’m all about never getting bored with my food.  Anyway, I digress, this is a fantastic everyday or special occasion chicken recipe, and it heats up beautifully the next day for lunch, so if it fits your fancy, roll up a few extras.  Feel free to get creative by altering the filling with different cheeses and herbs, that’s probably what I would do if it was someone else’s recipe.  🙂

Ingredients

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Cream Cheese (I used the reduced fat kind)

Romano Cheese

Fresh Parsley

Fresh Chives

Fresh Garlic

Ground Nutmeg

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Egg (beaten)

Panko Bread Crumbs

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Canola Oil

Process

Begin by finely chopping the herbs and garlic and finely grating the cheese.

007Then combine the herbs, grated cheese, and cream cheese in a bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and just a dash of nutmeg.

008Mix until everything is well incorporated and set aside while you prep the chicken for rolling.

009Disclaimer:  Please excuse the old, grungy cutting board used in the next segment of this post.  I only use it for chicken so, never really think about it, but it’s totally embarassing and I will be replacing it this weekend.  Shame on me.

For the next part of the recipe you can either use chicken breasts that come thinly sliced or you can slice them yourself.  I usually put one chicken breast on the cutting board, hold it firmly down with my hand and gently slice through the middle.  Novice cooks should probably use the thin breasts until they are confident in their knife skills.

010Once all your chicken is cut, you can grab your filling and a few toothpicks.

012You will now want to set up your filling and breading station.  Line up your egg and breadcrumbs next to the cutting board or plate that you will be working on, just to make the process go a little smoother.  First, spread a small amount of the cream cheese mixture onto your first piece of chicken (I think it makes more sense to fill, roll, and bread each piece of chicken completely rather than filling them all, rolling them, all, etc.).

014Make sure not to overfill or it will be very difficult to roll them up.  Next gently roll the chicken up, beginning with the wider side, making sure to use your fingers to keep the filling in place.

016Secure the end of the roll and the sides with toothpicks.  Be careful not to stab yourself!

017Repeat this process until all of your chicken is rolled.  Then begin the breading process by lightly coating the roll in egg.

018Then coat completely in panko breadcrumbs.

019Again, repeat the breading process until all of your chicken is coated.  Now, you can begin heating your oil before you start the breading process, but because I needed some time to get the sides ready and going, I put all of the rolls on a plate and kept in the refrigerator until I was ready for them.

021When you’re ready, coat the bottom of a large skillet with 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 canola oil.  The oil should come about 1/4 inch up the side of the pan (I avoid deep frying whenever possible because it just makes me feel so guilty, so this is what I do to get the same effect w/o all the fat).  Heat the oil on medium-high until it shimmers when you tilt the pan.  Add in your rolls and cook until chicken is cooked through and coating is golden brown.

029Drain on paper towels and allow to cool just a little before serving as the gooey, cheesy filling is quite hot.

030I served with smashed romano potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts, they were excellent complements.  Hope you ENJOY!

Note:  Check back, soon for my post on roasted brussel sprouts…trust me, they are tasty.

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A Long, Leisurely Christmas Eve

This year, DH and I spent Christmas Eve at home, just the two of us.  After working many, many hours all throughout December, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  I cooked slow, we ate slow, we drank slow, and we truly enjoyed.  Because of our love for all things Spanish, I made a leisurely tapas style meal, consisting of two rounds of food.

The Menu

Round One

Kalamata Olives

Manzanilla Olives

Pa Amb Tomaquet

Tempranillo Wine

Pa Amb Tomaquet is a Catalan specialty consisting of lightly toasted bread rubbed with garlic and vine ripened tomatoes and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkled with kosher salt...muy delicioso!

Pa Amb Tomaquet is a Catalan specialty consisting of lightly toasted bread rubbed with garlic and vine ripened tomatoes and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkled with kosher salt...muy delicioso!

Round Two

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Onions

Chorizo

Patatas Bravas

…and, more Tempranillo

My first attempt at brussel sprouts...yeah, they're good.

My first attempt at brussel sprouts...yeah, they're good.

The Star

Patatas Bravas…I searched high and low for a recipe that sounded like what  I ate in Barcelona.  I finally found a recipe that seemed right and they came out terrific.  Probably the best I’m gonna get on this side of the Atlantic.

Behold, a true beauty!

Behold, a true beauty!

Hope everyone ENJOYED their holiday celebrations, and wishing peace, love, prosperity, and of course more good eats in 2009!

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