Monday, April 4, 2016

Pasta Marinara with Bacon and Broccoli

I love Broccoli and Bacon together. It's a perfect combination. I had both in my fridge last night, and I'd normally turn it into a salad, but I wanted something heartier. Then I thought, "Pasta!" With the addition of a few pantry staples, I made something that was pretty much a perfect pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 6 cups broccoli chopped into small florets
    • I like to include the stems, sliced very thin, with the florets
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine (more if you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can (14 oz) plain tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or a 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flake
  • kosher salt
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 box rotini pasta

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate with paper towels and drain off fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan and reserving 2 more tablespoons for later. Now would be a good time to start heating a large pot of water to boil the pasta.

Cook the onions in the 2 tablespoons bacon fat left the pan with a large pinch of kosher salt over medium-high heat. When they have started to brown around the edges add the remaining reserved bacon fat, broccoli, pepper, chili flake, and another heavy pinch of kosher salt. Toss together all the ingredients in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli starts to soften (but still slightly crunchy). Add the vinegar, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. If you are not using a non-stick skillet, there will probably be some fond on the bottom of the pan you want to scrape up so it incorporates into the sauce. Add the oregano and basil. Simmer in the skillet, uncovered, until the broccoli is cooked.

While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in the boiling water, adding a 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water first. Cook the pasta until it is almost al-dente, but is still just a little underdone. Prior to draining the pasta, reserve a couple of cups of the cooking water. Drain the pasta into a colander, then pour directly into the skillet with the sauce (if your skillet is not large enough, you can put both the pasta and the sauce back into the pasta pot). Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce, adding back some of the reserved cooking water (probably around 1/4 to 1/2 cup) to loosen things up if it's too thick. Serve immediately, either as a main dish, or with sliced grilled chicken breasts. Top with (lots of) Parmesan cheese when serving.

Note on 4/7: I recently read this article on Serious Eats, it's totally helpful for properly cooking/saucing your pasta: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/02/the-right-way-to-sauce-pasta.html

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cake Doughnuts (Dairy-Free!)

My kids are sensitive to dairy - it upsets their tummies :( When we are out and they see doughnuts, they always ask for them, but I have to tell them no because many doughnut recipes use milk (and it's hard to tell just by looking at them). Today I decided to figure out how to adapt a simple cake doughnut recipe to avoid dairy products; the results were quite tasty so I'm documenting them here!


  • 2 1/2 cups flour (plus additional flour for dusting the work surface and tools)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almond milk* (if using unsweetened milk, add 1 additional tablespoon sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted stick margarine for baking*
  • 1 gallon of peanut or vegetable oil for frying


*If you prefer dairy in your pastries: use 1 cup buttermilk instead of the almond milk and lemon juice; use butter instead of stick margarine.

If you have a deep fryer, you can load it up with oil and start it heating to 375 degrees. Otherwise place the oil in a large heavy pot and insert a fry thermometer; don't heat the oil on the stove now unless you have someone to watch it for you - it should not exceed 375 degrees and you will be busy with the dough for a while.

Measure the almond milk in a 2-cup measure and stir in the lemon juice. Let it sit for a few minutes to make almond "buttermilk." In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg until evenly distributed. Whisk together almond milk mixture, sugar, egg, and melted margarine in a separate mixing bowl until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and stir until fully incorporated. It will probably be pretty wet. If you are going to cook on the stove, start heating the oil now.

Turn out onto a well-floured work surface (I like to use a silicone rolling mat) and work enough flour into the dough to make it dry enough to roll out into a 3/4 inch thick sheet. Using a large (3-inch) biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut into rounds. Then use a small biscuit cutter (also floured) to cut out the holes. 

When the oil is between 360 and 375 degrees, start cooking the doughnuts two or three at a time (don't crowd the pot, it will make the oil temp drop too much). Be very careful not to splash the doughnuts into the oil or you will need treatment for burns! Fry for 1-2 minutes until golden brown before flipping with tongs or wooden chopsticks. Cook the other side until it is equally golden brown before removing the doughnuts to a sheet pan with a cooling rack set on top. Let them drain and cool on the rack for a couple of minutes before glazing or frosting with your favorite toppings. 

When the last cut doughnuts from the first batch are frying, collect up the scraps of dough and re-roll for a second batch. You should be able to get 8-10 doughnuts from this recipe, depending on if you roll up the holes with the scraps or cook them alongside the doughnuts.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Egg-Leavened Waffles

The first rule of waffles: Do not talk about waffles as if they are pancakes cooked in an iron. They are not. Waffles and pancakes have different culinary origins, even if Bisquick or Krusteaz would have you think they both just sprang ex nihilo from a corporate research kitchen. Think of the words you use to describe good waffles: crispy, puffy, tender, chewy; it's not the same as how you describe a good pancake. Waffles are special. They take more preparation, but they are worth it.
Ingredients (Makes 8-9 Belgian-style waffles, cut it in half for smaller groups)
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 fluid ounces oil (that's 6 tablespoons OR 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
6 eggs, separated
Directions
Prep:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, oil, and almond milk. Set aside. Using a standing mixer (or a hand mixer in another bowl) beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Set aside.
Mix and Cook:
Turn on the waffle iron to preheat. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, whisk together for 20-30 seconds, then let it sit for another 30 seconds. Slowly stir through the mixture to ensure there are no dry spots, but small lumps are OK. Now fold the whipped egg whites into the batter in two or thee batches. Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray and scoop some batter on; I use two scoops from a #12 disher. Try not to overload the iron, or the batter will ooze out the sides as it expands. Cook until the steam stops coming out the sides of the iron and the waffle is golden brown. Serve immediately while still hot. You could try to keep them warm in a low oven, but I typically just start serving my family one or two people at a time as they come out of the iron.