Angel Hair Pasta with Turkey Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

You would not believe it, but I have been trying to write a post for about a week now. Obviously, nothing has gone up, so you’ll have to take my word for it, but it has been a crazy week. More crazy than you could adequately shake a rolling pin at. I’m going to leave the descriptions at that and let your mind work at finding a comparable parallel within your own world.

But yes, I haven’t posted. And I will eventually post that post (postypostyposty…) because it features the oh-so-awesome Amber! Eventually, it will go up. But this will have to suffice for now.

From the title, you’d probably guess that I got the idea for this ensemble from the Giada cookbooks I got from the library, and you’d guess right – though she mostly helped me flesh out my initial idea of sketti. I was just going to putz around and see what I could figure out, but I decided to be smart about it (since I was making it for company) and have a guide for the sauce.

Initially I thought wtf about the whole carrots-in-the-sauce thing. Seems a little odd… But it works quite nicely. It lends the sauce a bit more body and substantiality without messing with the flavor. You just have to make sure the bits are chopped small enough to really soften, because if they’re not completely soft they’re a little odd to bite into kinda randomly.

Angel Hair Pasta with Turkey Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 32oz. cans crushed or diced tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves (I used basil because I still haven’t stocked up on bay leaves ><)

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Sauté until all vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turkey Meatballs

1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb ground turkey, preferably dark meat
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder, cayenne, or other spices (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper. (I added cayenne after I cooked a few and noticed that they were a little on the bland side.) Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape the meat mixture in to bite-size balls. (I found that a small cookie scoop worked nicely for the sizing – just cut them in half for more bite-size pieces, or leave them large for a more chunky look.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving or turning the meatballs until brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown.

~

Somewhere in the middle of all this, start the pasta. I chose angel hair because I love it, but any long noodle will work. I’ve been reading various books, and I keep coming across the concept that the saltiness of the noodle water should be pretty oceanic, so I decided to add quite a bit more than I usually do. OH MY GOD~! I can eat the noodles alone cold and it’s amazing. Just the right amount of salt to make it a nice interesting taste without being overwhelming. Really. Salt the crap out of the water. It’s worth it.

Anyway, time the noodles to where they should be coming out of the water around when the second or third batch of meatballs is done. The whole recipe is said to make 3 dozen… and that’s about right. It takes a while to cook them all. I did a few batches, ate, then cooked the rest and put away.

Assemble pretty pretty sketti. Eat. Eat more. Burst. Repeat process.

Pictures will come when I feel like getting the memory card out of the camera and making them look more yummies.

Also, I made some foccacia bread to go with this, but I’ll have to post that later.

Not a Frittata

I love reading cookbooks. They give me ideas for things I should make the next time I have whatever ingredients. I went to return a couple of books to the library yesterday and found myself in the cooking section. I ended up grabbing various interesting-looking books, including a baking book from Sur La Table, Techniques of Healthy Cooking from the Culinary Institute of America, a giant book of Cooking Light recipes, and two Giada de Laurentiis books.

I love Giada. If I’m at work, and I turn the TV in the cabana on, I’ll switch it to the Food Network to see what’s on. If Giada’s on, I end up losing a few minutes watching what she’s up to. She has wonderfully simple and elegant recipes, she has a great presence in front of the camera, and she doesn’t add tons of salt like some other personalities (*ahem* Paula Deen >;_>;).

I was flipping through Everyday Italian, just checking things out that might be simple to supplement our coming ingredient reduction, like popcorn with rosemary oil, and drooling over lovely foods like fried calamity, when I came across the description of frittatas. I’ve heard the word thrown around, but had no real idea what it was. I learned that it’s kinda like an omelette, only the ingredients are distributed throughout the egg, and then it’s tossed in the oven to brown on top. I didn’t really think much of it other than it was interesting, but it apparently stuck in my mind a lot more than I realized.

While making my tiramisù, I noticed for the umpteenth time that I had a large batch of egg whites from previous batches of crème brûlée in the freezer. I also had a bunch of spinach and a handful of mushrooms, so I figured I’d use the whites in a relatively simple omelette for dinner.

As per usual, I really didn’t keep it simple.

Not a Frittata

6-8 eggs
1/2 half onion, diced
5 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup packed spinach
1/2 cup pepperjack cheese
1/2 tsp hot chili sauce (can use Asian chili sauces, tapatio works; I used a slight bit of the salsa I had left from the sopes)
garlic (chopped or minced works, but I was lazy and used granulated)
salt and pepper to taste
cumin and sage to taste (I just sprinkled it on, used at most 1/8 tsp)

Toss onions into skillet to caramelize. While they do their thing, whisk eggs with chili sauce, salt and pepper. Preheat broiler to 500°F.

Once onions are mostly caramelized, add mushrooms. Let those cook a bit, then add sage and cumin. Add tomatoes and cook until liquid is evaporated.

Add egg to the pan and make scrambled eggs. Add spinach late in the game to prevent overcooking. Add tiny handful of cheese.

Place concoction in oven-safe pan (I used a pie dish) and top with remaining pepperjack cheese. Place in oven for five-ish minutes and watch the cheese melt and brown a bit. (I had my rack in the middle of the oven so it wouldn’t turn into a crispy mess before I noticed. Also, watching the last minute or so is really interesting and fun.)

Remove from oven. Dish up. Chow down.

 

Tiramisù

This is going to be my second-to-last big production for the next few months. Why? Well, Mikal and I have gotten it into our minds to move our behinds down to California. There’s this big yellow thing in the sky that appears there rather often, and we need to see more of it than the paltry amount we get in western Washington. Seriously.

This whole move thing should be happening the last week of June, which is when Mikal’s brother is moving down to California – this would save us a ton of money, so we’re going for it. In order to save the requisite money to get down there, though, we need to pare down our food and everything else spending, so this will be the last expensive hoo-hah outside of Mikal’s birthday.

I’m not going totally on hiatus from this, though I have a feeling I might do fewer posts. You see, when I get it into my head to make something, it usually entails ingredients we don’t have, so I have to go out and get them. While it’s nice to do this, it is not conducive to saving money. Mikal, on the other hand, can create food from what I see as random stuff we have in the fridge. He has the magic food ability. I envy him.

At any rate, I’ve been wanting to make tiramisù for sooooo long. I used to think I didn’t like tiramisu, mostly because I tasted the Haagen dazs tiramisù ice cream, and it just tasted waaaay too heavily of the coffee liqueur they used. So I went through life oblivious to the wonders of tiramisù until one evening in Paris with some classmates. We went looking for food around where they were staying, and happened upon an italian restaurant that looked good. Of course, it was amazingly good. We liked it enough to get desserts. I don’t remember what I got, but one of the items on the menu was tiramisù. I remember making a face and saying something along the lines of “Blegh ><” and ordered…something. The classmate that ordered the tiramisù, though, allowed me a taste because it actually didn’t look bad, and smelled good to boot. My goodness…. It was heavenly. It was one of the first foods I fell in love with on that trip.

When I came home, I wanted to share the goodness with Mikal, so at some point when we went to the Olive Garden, we ordered the tiramisù. So sad. So very sad. At least I had the good sense to order a Lavazza latte to wash it down. (Lavazza was one of the stronger-flavored coffees in the cafés of France, and it was nice to taste something familiar.)

Lesson learned: don’t try to duplicate awesome experiences with mass-produced food. It makes sad pandas.

So I have been craving good tiramisù, and got it in my head to try it out. Surprisingly (or not, I guess), mascarpone cheese is expensive. It didn’t help that the recipe I used was for a 9″x13″ pan, which is enormous in terms of such rich fare. And when it says to use packaged ladyfingers, go ahead and do that unless you’ve made ladyfingers. As with most pastries I seem to want to make, it required whipped egg to be folded into the batter. What is it with my recipe choice on this stuff? So yeah, go ahead and buy the ladyfingers. You’ll thank yourself.

Tiramisù

1 cup espresso
1/2 cup Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (divided)
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
26oz. mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
48 slightly stale ladyfingers
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Combine the espresso and Kahlúa in a small bowl to make a syrup. Set aside.

Whisk together 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the egg yolks, and the egg in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over simmering water. Continue to whisk until the volume nearly doubles and the mixture becomes a light lemon yellow, 4-5 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the mixture has cooled to room temperature, 8-10 minutes. Add half of the mascarpone and the vanilla extract and blend on low speed until very smooth, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the remaining mascarpone and mix just long enough to combine evenly.

Beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a clean bowl to medium peaks, 5-6 minutes. Fold the beaten egg whites into the mascarpone mixture in 3 separate additions.

(At the end of the recipe, there is a note that you can use pasteurized egg whites to “eliminate any food safety concerns,” as the whites don’t get cooked. I had some in the fridge, and read the ingredients. It said 99% egg whites with various additives, including coloring and xanthan and guar gums, and various other things. I thought surely, 1% of random stuff shouldn’t matter, right? Maybe it was the fact that I was using the generic brand, but it wouldn’t whip up for beans. It kinda fluffed, but didn’t even form soft peaks, even after I added some cream of tartar. So… yeah. I dunno. If I make this again and remember what I did this time, I’ll try with reserved egg whites and see how it turns out.)

Place 16 ladyfingers in a 2 1/2 quart dish or a 9×13 inch baking pan. Brush the ladyfingers evenly and liberally with the espresso syrup. Spread one-third of the mascarpone filling in an even layer over the ladyfingers. Repeat this layering sequence twice to use the remaining ladyfingers, espresso syrup, and mascarpone filling, ending with the mascarpone filling.

Dust the entire surface of the tiramisù with the cocoa powder and the confectioners’ sugar. Wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or up to overnight to allow flavors to blend. Cut into portions and serve directly from the dish or pan.

Mine was a bit sad and flopsy. It’s because the egg whites wouldn’t firm up for the mascarpone filling :/ But! It’s still damn good. Mascarpone has a wonderful taste somewhere between cream cheese and whipping cream, with a little dash of sweetness added. Very luxurious. Soooo gooooood.

Thai Noodle Salad with Fried Chicken Bites

I have been trying to sit down and get this post written, but things just keep coming up. Life is getting busier, which is nice: I’m not dwelling quite so much on the over-cloudy/rainy/snowy weather outside, with it’s strange sun breaks right when I can’t get outside. I’m more and more annoyed with western Washington weather.

On another note, pancakes for dinner is amazing.

I came across the following recipe for fried chicken with sweet chili sauce on Pinterest, which has become my new addiction in finding random food ideas. I’ll spend a good half hour or so before falling asleep each night. There are some pretty cute ideas on there, mostly for entertaining. But I came across this recipe, and it sounded really perfect for what I was wanting, but it was only supposed to be an appetizer, so there wasn’t much to it. I looked around for something to accompany…. And had a stroke of food genius. I swear, I could have kissed myself for how awesome this turned out.

Thai Noodle Salad with Fried Chicken in Sweet Chili Sauce

Thai Noodle Salad

1 package rice noodles
4 tablespoons oriental sesame oil

8 green onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter I used crunchy, and it actually added a really nice crunchy texture.
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 cup finely shredded carrots

Cook rice noodles according to the package instructions. Transfer pasta to large bowl; add 3 tablespoons sesame oil and toss to coat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 6 green onions, garlic, and ginger; sauté until onions soften, about 2 minutes. Add honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and chili-garlic sauce; whisk to blend. Simmer sauce 1 minute. Cool to room temperature. Pour over pasta and toss to coat. Add sprouts and carrots; mix well. Transfer to platter; sprinkle with remaining green onions.

I waited to put everything together until after I had the chicken done. That way, the flavors of the sauce had time to meld, and I had time to employ Mikal in cutting the veggies for me while I fried chicken.

Fried Chicken

1 large chicken breast (boneless/skinless)
1/2 cup all purpose flour corn starch – makes a much lighter skin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
canola or peanut oil for frying
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
carrots & cilantro, for garnish

Pour 1-2 inches of oil into a deep skillet. Preheat over medium heat.

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside. In a shallow dish, stir together corn starch, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, whisk egg, milk, salt and pepper together. Dredge the chicken pieces in egg and then corn starch mix.

Place chicken pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown on each side. (About 3-4 minutes per side.) Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with sweet chili sauce.

Assemble noodle salad if you haven’t yet, and mix in the sauce. Put a bit into a bowl, top with a bit of chicken, and voilà! Amazing food. Holy buttons, amazing food.

Go on. Try it. I dare ya.

Or you could do like me and just make a whole jar of the salad sauce for a nice veggie noodle salad throughout the week. Just be careful with the chili sauce. I slightly overdid it in my last batch @_@;;

Happy Belated Pi Day!

This is a belated pi day post because it seems to have snuck up on me this year. I ended up spending most of yesterday morning scrounging aground for a relatively easy recipe using ingredients I already had in the house. I briefly entertained doing chicken pot pie, completely bypassing my sweet tooth, but decided against it since I posted about it only a few weeks ago.

And then it dawned on me: I have everything I need to make a banana cream pie – except bananas. Oh well. Those are easy! I had a rather unsatisfying experience with banana cream pie last week. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t quite satisfying in the banana department, and that’s an issue I have found in most store-bought banana cream pies. For a while a year or so ago, I was on the hunt for a “real” banana cream pie recipe, one that didn’t use banana flavored pudding and a pie crust. I couldn’t find one for beans! And I was researching this on the internet for daaaaays. No, I didn’t go down to the library, though I have occasionally flipped through cookbooks I come across in book stores or elsewhere, and I still had no luck.

Luckily, the handy-dandy Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America helped me out. Not only do they have a recipe for banana cream pie, it uses ACTUAL BANANAS. And not pudding. Well, it could be pudding, if you wanted to completely overload on creamy goodness. It smells a lot like tapioca pudding when it starts cooling. And I loves me some tapioca pudding.

Banana Cream Pie

1 recipe for single-crust Pie Dough
2 medium-ripe bananas
1/2 cup heavy cream
chocolate shavings for garnish
2 cups Pastry Cream

Banana Cream Pie

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the pie dough use it to line a 9-inch pie pan. Fully blind bake the crust. (Blind baking entails lining the crust in the pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and weighing it down with pie weights or dried beans, and baking for 10-12 minutes, then removing the weights and foil/paper and baking for a further 6-8 minutes until it is golden brown and purty.)

 

Let cool to room temperature in the pan on a rack.

Pastry Cream

1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar (divided)
2 cups whole milk (divided)
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 pinch salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Combine the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a mixing bow, then stir in 1/2 cup of the milk. Blend the yolks into the cornstarch mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.

Prepare an ice bath. Combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk with the remaining 1/2 cup sugars and the salt in a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat.

Temper the egg mixture by gradually adding about one-third of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Add the remaining milk mixture to the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat, vigorously stirring with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and the whisk leaves a trail in the pastry cream, 5-7 minutes. As soon as the pastry cream reaches this stage, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and the butter. Transfer the pan to the ice bath. Stir occasionally until the pastry cream is cool, about 30 minutes.

 

The cream started to thicken rather suddenly while heating. I had to keep a very close eye on it. Also, it likes to start developing a skin, so you do need to stir it more than occasionally.

Banana Cream Pie

Stir the pastry cream until it is light and smooth. Thinly slice the bananas into the pastry cream. Fold the bananas and pastry cream together and spread in an even layer in the cooled pie shell. (I was fine with a banana and a half, though I could have probably exponentially increased the awesomeness if I had added that last bit of banana.)

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl until it holds a medium peak when the whisk is turned upright. Spread or pipe the whipped cream on top of the pie and garnish with chocolate shavings. Chill for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.

You don’t have any idea how hard it was to get the whipped cream to not look super un-detailed.

While I was waiting for the pie to fridgidate, I made an awesome dinner. Will try to get this couple of recipes posted when I can, because they were awesome!

Thai noodle salad with fried chicken cubes with sweet chili sauce. So good.