Kale Pasta

On a quest to find cheap and healthy food, I ransacked the HEB and came away with a 98 cent bush of kale about 3 times the size of my head. It was a great find, but since leafy greens don’t do so well in my fridge, I knew I’d have to eat them fast. I did some experimenting, and this was one of my favorite recipes that came of it.

kale

I sorted the prep vegetables according to how cooked I wanted them to be.

IMG_20140709_212945

 

First, I sauteed the onion in olive oil, over medium heat until they started getting translucent. After that, I tossed in the rest, sauteing for a few minutes before adding the sauce. Together, I let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes (feel free to do it as long as you’re willing, just make sure it doesn’t dry out).

 

While that was going, I made bacon sprinkles. If you want to keep this recipe Vegan, skip that. It’s totally option and I did it on a whim, anyway, so not much will be lost if you skip it. Only bacon, which you don’t really care about anyway.

 

Bacon sprinkles are just tiny strips of bacon fried until they’re crispy. I’ve used them in a handful of dishes so far and I’ve found them to be a nice way to add a little bit of salty/crunchy to your food. Since they keep well, you can even cook up half a pack or so and just keep them in the fridge for whenever you need some on your pasta, fried rice, or grits.

 

As the pasta was nearing completion, I tossed the kale into the sauce. I waited till the end because I wanted it to still be crisp and fresh tasting. The diversity of texture alone is worth it, and if you’re down for an experiment, I recommend just adding some fresh. Also, if you’re a cheesy kind of person, I’d recommend a hard Spanish cheese for this. I tried it with some idiazabal and it worked really well.

IMG_5093

 

Here’s my attempt at a printer friendly recipe card:

Kale Pasta

Bacon sprinkles and cheese (optional)

1 med white onion

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (I eat it in everything, you might not want as much)

24 oz pasta sauce

whatever spices you like in pasta sauce: salt/pepper/garlic/oregano/etc

3 giant kale leaves

noodles

1. Make bacon sprinkles. Drain and set aside.

1 if you don’t want meat. Chop veggies, keep onion separate.

2. Warm a sauce pot with olive oil to medium. Saute onions for about 5 minutes.

3. Add jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for about a minute.

4. Add sauce and stir. Lower the temperature to med-low, but keep an eye on it just in case.

5. Start boiling pasta water (waiting to do it until now is a great way to time the sauce and also gives you time to clean up some if you don’t want to save it all till you’re done) and cook the pasta as per the recommended instructions.

6. With about a minute left on the pasta, add the kale to the sauce.

7. Everything’s all a flurry now! Strain the pasta! Add a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick! Stir the sauce some more!

8. Serve. Top with bacon sprinkles and/or delicious Spanish cheese, as you desire.

Seafood Lasagna

So apparently lasagna is one of those foods I really like because I tend to make it a lot. Every time it’s a little bit different, based on the whims of the day and the one I made most recently was a seafood lasagna. Seafood lasagna is another one of those dishes that reminds me of France because my host mom used to get some really good lasagna from the fisherie(?) on a fairly regular basis. This one was a bit too bright and not as diversely occupied as Sophie’s guy’s, but it’s still pretty nice.

Structurally, it was very similar to every other lasagna I’ve ever made, the only special thing was how I treated the tilapia. But I’ll go over everything just because I like you so much.

Tilapia Ingredients:
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon’s worth)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tilapia filets
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (how convenient!)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Start by combining the zest, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl then take roughly half of it and coat both sides of the tilapia filets. In a oiled skilled heated on medium-high, cook the tilapia for about two minutes on each side.

They won’t be cooked, but don’t freak out. You’re going to bake them so it’ll be ok.

Once that’s over with, remove the tilapia and lover the heat to medium. Add the remaining spices and lemon juice, then stir it all around and mingle with the fish juices. Next add the whipping cream and cook for about 2 minutes until slightly thick.

While the sauce was reducing, I chunked/shredded the tilapia. When the sauce was ready, I tossed the tilapia in and took it off the heat. And that’s it for the tilapia.

Lasagna ingredients:
Tilapia and sauce (as prepared above)
About 3/4 lb cooked shrimp
Lasagna pasta sheets
1 jar Pasta sauce (I used 24 oz black olive and capers since lemon and capers are such good friends)
7 oz ricotta
~3 cups mozzarella
2-3 handfuls parmesan

Keep in mind to preheat the oven to 375, then feel free to get on your layering.

I started with a layer of pasta, using 4 sheets.
Then ricotta with parmesan sprinkled on.
More pasta sheets.
The tilapia and sauce, topped with a good amount of mozzarella.
Even more pasta sheets.
All the shrimp, a little less than half the sauce, and more mozzarella.
The penultimate layer: pasta.
And finally, top it off with the last of the sauce and however much cheese you want.

Then cover and bake for 35-40 minutes and enjoy!

The lemon comes through well, but isn’t overpowering and mingled with the sauces nicely. And even though it may seem strange to combine seafood and cheese, it totally works in lasagna. I’ve tried it a fair number of times, with a variety of sauces–even pesto–and it always works.

I ate mine with a side of asparagus, also something that turned out to be one of my favorite things.

Salmon Alfredo

I don’t cook with fish much because I’ve always been afraid of messing it up. But I watched my mom cook some on the grill a little while back so I figured I’d give it a try.

To cook the salmon, I let an oiled non stick skillet heat up for a while (to mimic the heat of a grill), then put the salmon on, skin down.

Then put on whatever seasonings you like, salt and pepper are always good.

As it’s cooking, you’ll notice the bottom change colors, and the color change (from red-pink to salmon-pink) will elevate up the sides of the salmon. It’s pretty neat; you can almost see it happening. A few minutes in, we topped it with some fresh basil…

…and covered the skillet to finish cooking it all the way through to the top.

Once you cover it it doesn’t take long to finish. (This was my first time cooking salmon. It might be faster to cover it the whole time and have it still end up the same…? I don’t know.)

And while that was going, I had the pasta boiling and was making an alfredo sauce. if you’ve read more than one article from here, you’d know that I love cream based sauces. It helps a lot that they’re super easy to make. Just reduce some cream, toss in some cheese (parmesan if you want to make a real alfredo sauce) and stir/add cheese until it’s the right consistency. This time I used rosemary asiago and a small handful of mozzarella.

Once everything was done, I combined the sauce and pasta, then flaked the salmon with my hand and a fork and tossed that in too.

Soo yummy. It’s good cold for nighttime picnics and it reheats well for lunch at work.

Andouille Alfredo

This one is modeled after something I had at a restaurant once in Louisiana. It was super tasty, and coincidentally, the same night I had the pasta, I met the chef at a friends house and then learned that this was no usual alfredo sauce with a cream base and parmesan cheese, but instead, it was roux based. This intrigued me, and so I decided to try it out. I accidentally made enough for 15 people, so you’re going to have to scale down what I did.

Here’s what I started with:

A stick butter (this is where I used way too much)
1/2 cup flour (same amount of butter)
2 Andouille sausage (my grocery store just came out with some chicken andouille, and I wanted to give it a try)
A little less than half a pound of parmesan
A pack of linguini
32 oz heavy whipping cream
1 tbs(ish) paprika
Salt, pepper, and minced garlic to taste

If you want to make less, start by using less butter and flour. The rest will be easy after that. I’d recommend using about a tablespoon of butter per person. That might end up in some leftovers, but nothing like what I ended up with. (And just FYI, expect a post with what I did with the leftover sauce.)

Ok, so, to start, cut up the sausage into whatever size pleases you. I opted for bigger, chunkier pieces because that’s similar to how I had it at the restaurant. Then heat them in the same pan you plan on making the sauce in.

You’ll notice that I started off in a skillet, but by the end I had to move to a soup pot. I literally made about 50 oz by the time I was done (that’s about 2 giant pasta sauce jar’s worth). And don’t clean it in between. The drippings from the sausage helps makes the sauce and helps integrate it’s flavor. I noticed that the flavor wasn’t as strong because it was chicken andouille, but it was definitely less fatty. So there are pluses and minuses to the chicken sausage.

When the sausage is warm and a little browned, take them out and start melting your butter.

When the butter’s done, toss in the flour, then stir to combine. At this point you’d be making a blond roux. Don’t worry about browning it, because you want it to keep this light flavor.

Keep in mind that I was winging this recipe. So, at this point, not really knowing what I was doing, I added the cheese.

I thought that melting the cheese into the roux would magically make a sauce. Not quite… It made a semi-solid roux and the as it kept cooking, the butter started separating. Supposedly more flour would help it keep it’s roux-iness, but I didn’t want a roux, I wanted a sauce. So I literally stopped in the middle and ran to the store to pick up some cream. All in all, I needed to add the whole 32 oz container to make it all stay homogenized. And once the cream was in, I added my spices.

Stir, stir, stir and add the sausage.

(See I told you I had to switch to a soup pot.)

Stir some more then serve.

Et puis, laissez les bons temps rouler.

Upgraded Pasta Sauce

Sorry it’s been a while, this is the last week of school and lots of projects and finals are happening, so bear with me, things’ll be picking up very soon.

This is kind of a repeat idea–how to make store bought pasta sauce better–but it’s different ingredients from my last one.

For this one, I used:
A big jar of pasta sauce (or two, you’ll see why later)
A box/bag of spinach
A block of fontina
Tube of sage sausage
Pasta (I used whole wheat penne)

Mine came out really thick and meaty because I used the whole pound of sausage to only one jar of sauce. If you want it to be more like a sauce, I’d recommend using only a half pound of sausage.

And as far as prep goes, all you have to do is cube or shred the cheese and wash the spinach. Super easy!

I started off by wilting some spinach in a ward skillet with some olive oil.

Basically, all you need to do is pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil, heat the skillet at a medium heat, and drop in the spinach. You may have to flip/stir it every once in a while, but it’s very low maintenance.

While that was going, I cooked the sausage and got the pasta boiling on a back burner. The only part about that you have to watch out for is to make sure it’s in a big enough pan to fit the sauce as well. (Unless you want extra dishes, of course.)

When the sausage was done, I added the sauce and spinach–it happened to be done by that time too.

After that, I just stirred to combine. When I felt that the sauce had warmed up enough (a little hotter than eating temperature) I threw in the cheese.

Stir until it melts, and then you’re done. If the pasta hasn’t finished yet, I’d say turn off the heat and put a lid on it–that way it retains heat without losing moisture.

Dressing up Spaghetti

This is something really easy you can do for one of those nights where you don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want. It’s a simple twist on spaghetti and pasta sauce that turns out really yummy.

Here’s what you need:

A bag of salad shrimp
A big jar of your favorite pasta sauce (mine is 26 oz)
Grated asiago or just regular parmesan, if that’s how you roll
Spaghetti

Salad shrimp are normal shrimp, just much smaller. They also tend to come cooked, peeled, and deveined, which are all huge plusses. And because they’re so little, a lot of times they’re cheaper than normal shrimp. But in all honesty, any kind would work just fine.

First start by boiling your water and cooking the pasta. Unless you’re like me, that won’t be hard.

And while that’s going, throw the sauce in a different pan, add the shrimp, and warm them up together on a medium-high heat.

This would be a good time to add any spices that you might like. Chili powder would be good if you want a little heat, or some fresh herbs could be good depending on what sauce you chose.

When the sauce is warm (and the shrimp are defrosted), add the cheese. I added .15 lb (because that’s how much was in the container I bought) but you can be as liberal or as conservative as you like with this part.

Then just stir it in until it melts and turn down the heat to low to med-low. By this time the pasta should be done. Don’t worry about abandoning the sauce while you drain the pasta, it will be ok.

Then just serve however you like.

To make it prettier, you could garnish it with a little more cheese or whatever herbs you used while cooking.

Like I said, this is a really simple way to make plain old pasta a little better.

Manicotti

So this is a super tasty Italian dish. Basically imagine giant penne pasta filled with a delicious cheese mix and covered in your tomato sauce. Yum. And another thing that’s neat is that vegetarians can have it (as long as you don’t pick a meat sauce).

All you need is:
A box of manicotti shells (mine had 14 inside)
30-32 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 jar of sauce (mine was 26 oz)
1 package of mozzarella (8 oz is fine)
1 package of a stronger tasting cheese, like parmesan, asiago, or romano (they generally come in 6 oz for some reason)

And all of this cost around $10, so it’s a pretty cheap meal to make for a couple people, or to have delicious left-overs.

First you start by boiling the noodles.

Just follow the instructions on the box. It should take about 7 minutes.

And while that’s going, mix the cheeses. Just combine all the ricotta, about a cup and a half of mozzarella and about 3/4 cup romano. Now would also be a good time to preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

When the pasta’s done, make sure you set them down either separate from one another, or with olive oil so that they don’t stick together. And I found that it’s better to pull them out of the water with tongs than it is to try to drain the pot. You’re less likely to break them that way.

Now for filling the pasta, you have a couple of options. I happened to have a piping bag laying around, so that’s what I used.

But if you don’t have one, you can use a plastic bag. Just put all the cheese in a big zip-top bag and cut off a corner. Voila, it’s a pastry bag that you don’t have to clean up afterward.

Before placing them in a pan, pour out about half of your sauce.

Then place them in whatever pattern pleases you. It doesn’t matter if they touch, just try to make them fit. I used a 9 x 13 pan and I still had to make a 2nd tier, so don’t worry; it’s very forgiving.

I had a little cheese mix left over, so I mixed it with the rest of the pasta sauce then poured it over the whole thing. After smoothing it out with a spoon, I covered the top with the some of the leftover mozzarella and romano.

Then cover the top with foil and bake for about 35 minutes, until it’s bubbly and delicious.

One thing I forgot to mention (and to do myself) was the fact that you can add things to the cheese mixture if you’re feeling adventurous. The cheese is salty, so I’ll leave it up to you if you want to add any, but I would definitely recommend a little pepper and whatever herbs you like. Also, you could throw in some roasted veggies or leftover chicken. Have fun with it.

Beef Stroganoff

This is based on how my grandma makes it. I don’t think I quite have it down, but it’s still very tasty and not too hard. The hardest part was dealing with the meat. I bought a 4 lb chuck roast and it was a pain to cut up. You probably won’t need that much meat (it fed two people for about 5 days) unless you love easy left-overs. An easier way to deal with it would be to get some stew meat. It tends to be cut up. You’d probably have to cut it into smaller pieces, but it would be a lot easier to work with.

The whole thing cost me about $25, but again, I was cooking for 10 people, and chances are you’ll already have some garlic, sour cream, butter, an onion…You get the idea. I conveniently was out of everything, so that’s the cost if you have to buy everything.

What you’ll need is:
An onion (about fist sized, my favorite is yellow onion)
~3 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste–I generally use more)
A dash of olive oil (or canola, whatever floats your boat)
A small container of sour cream (you can use either half or the whole thing, so it you have some sitting in your fridge, now would be the time to use it)
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsps Nutmeg (to taste)
4 lbs chuck roast
16 oz button mushrooms
Egg noodles (Unless you have a heart problem, I recommend WITH yolk. It makes the sauce stick much better and therefore you get a better over-all eating experience)
1/2 stick butter (give or take–enough to make the noodles buttery)

You start by cutting up the main ingredients (mushrooms, garlic, onion, and meat). The onion and meat should be cut into long strips, unless you want the onions to disappear completely. And the mushrooms should be sliced, nothing fancy. If you want to save some time with this, you can buy the pre sliced mushrooms.

Another short cut I’ve been trying out recently is buying pre-minced garlic.

It does seem to taste a little weaker, and it is less aromatic, but it is Sooooo convenient. Most of the time you can just add a little more to make up for its weaknesses.

And because chuck roast is a cheap and not a super high quality meat, you want to be sure to cut it against the grain so that it comes out tender and not chewy.

After everything’s cut (which might take a while depending on what kind of meat you get), add your dash of oil to a big pot and toss in the onions and garlic, but NOT the mushrooms.

Note that my pot is a little too small. Let these sauté until they’re soft and translucent, then add the meat.

At this point, add your couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. It’s good to have the base seasoning now so that it will penetrate into the meat and veggies. If you think it might need more, wait until the meat is cooked and taste the sauce. It’s best to have it a little over seasoned, because the noodles will reduce the flavor.

Stir the meat until brown. Note, don’t add any water, it will make it’s own juices. Now add the mushrooms, cover and let simmer until meat is tender. Grandma says to wait two hours, I waited 20 minutes. But one difference between our recipes is that she uses rump roast, which is even tougher than chuck, so it takes longer to get tender. If you go the 20 minute route, now would be a good time to start you pasta.

When that’s done, you’ll notice that the mushrooms have changed quite a bit. They’ll be smaller and darker because they’ve given up their own moisture, but have also soaked up some of the awesome juices. This would be a good time to taste the sauce to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.

Now that it’s close to an end, it’s time to add the sour cream. Just dump it in and mix it around. It will change the color and consistency of the sauce (but only by a tiny bit).

Once you’ve cooked and strained your noodles, butter them up. Not only does that make them taste good, it also keeps them from sticking together when they cool down–good thing for leftovers.

And when you’re ready, serve in a soup plate on top of noodles.

Make your own Macaroni and Cheese!

(Or you can use a different pasta…)

It all starts with a cream based sauce.

For this one, we used gruyere and sharp cheddar. I would highly recommend using a sharper cheddar, if you are a cheddar fan, because there is less oil when you melt it, which makes the look (and taste) better.

But before you start the sauce, boil your pasta.

And it helps if you proportion it correctly. We had too much pasta, so instead of combining the pasta and sauce at the end in one big batch, we had to put the sauce on each plate.

Fun with Fillo Dough

The basis for this is the awesome sauce. What you need for that is heavy whipping cream, mozzarella, garlic, feta, pepper and paprika. The sauce can be used for many things, but I’ll show you the fillo dough pastries before the pasta because they’re more fun.

To make the pastries, you’ll need all of the above as well as fillo dough, spinach, chicken, and whatever seasonings you’d like on the chicken.

IMG_9888

I got frozen spinach because I was lazy. It was already cooked and cut up; all I had to do was defrost and drain it. I don’t think raw spinach would have worked for this, but it is worth a try. Also, sun dried tomatoes wouldn’t be too bad either.

And because the chicken was frozen, I popped it in my handy dandy windtunnel (thank you mom!) for 13 minutes on each side, with a little Greek Seasoning while I made the sauce.

IMG_9889

The sauce was your average cream-based sauce. But I did use more than indicated in the picture. I’m not exactally sure how much, but I think it was twice one of those little containers.

IMG_9890

I added to the cream, once it had warmed up, the entire bag of mozzarella. (Not all at once, mind you, only bit by bit, to make sure that it was all melted and well integrated.) As well as 4 tbs of feta–which can be altered to taste. Once the cheese was melted and the sauce reduced a little, so that it would be super thick, I added about 2 tbs minced garlic, some pepper and some paprika.

IMG_9893

Mix well and turn off the heat while you deal with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the chicken was done cooking and cold enough to touch, I cut it into little bits. Strips would have worked equally well. Then I laid out the fillo dough. That dough is very well known for it’s fragility, so if you’re not comfortable with it, fell free to use something else flaky, like puff pastry. I only used it because I’ve used it before, which is more that I can say for other similar doughs. Because it’s so easily breakable, I used a minimum of three layers.

Then went down the sauce.

IMG_9898

I didn’t put too much because I wanted to avoid over filling and thus explosions, but you can use more than I did in the pic–just try to stay away from the edges. Turns out there are other techniques to avoid explosions, and I’ll get to them in a bit.

Next comes the spinach.

IMG_9899

One thing that’s super important about the spinach is that you want to make absolutely sure that it has been drained sufficiently. You don’t want to taste the spinach water here. Also, it’ll mess with the sauce and make it too liquidy.

I didn’t have much chicken, so I only put a few bits in each. For all the sauce I made, I only cooked two chicken thighs. Not a good idea. I would recommend at least three, maybe four if you’re one of those heavy duty protein people.

IMG_9903

I also added a few ore feta chunks here, for a shock of flavor when you’re eating it.

IMG_9904

When it comes to rolling it up, I started with folding up the top and bottom so that the crease is the border of the sauce, then folding the left side in the same way. From there, I rolled the left side until there was about an inch left of exposed dough. That’s where I sealed it. I used egg wash to glue it shut, but you can probably use something else. You basically want to get the dough wet and stick so that it sticks to itself.

Now it’s time to bake them.

IMG_9905

Before popping them in the oven, I covered the outside with the same egg wash from earlier. It was hard to get an even spread and butter might have worked better here. All the ingredients except the dough are cooked so it won’t take long to bake. It took mine 11 minutes at 350 degrees because every three minutes or so I would open the oven to look at them. A cooking-school friend of mine recommends 8 minutes, with no peaking.

And this is where you need to do your anti-explosion techniques. Before baking, poke three tiny holes in the tops of the dough so that steam can escape as the sauce heats up. I did not do this, as you will see in my pictures.

IMG_9906

Another thing you can do to preserve their beauty would be to make your baking pan non stick through the use of butter or oil. (I also did not do this. They stuck a little and therefore cracked even more, but overall they were ok.)

IMG_9908

Despite the temptation, do let them cool before you eat them. And feel free to use a fork and knife because the dough will crack everywhere–it’s not very structurally sound.

Another use for the sauce is in pasta. A theory I tested the next day.

IMG_9916

I didn’t have enough chicken again (more people came over than planned) so I cut it up and mixed it with the sauce. The chicken was seasoned the same way as above.

I also get the feeling that it would be good in lasagna. But if you do try that, I would recommend making the sauce thicker by adding more cheese (the mozzarella is good for thickening–as opposed to the feta–but you could use other flavors on top of it or as an alternative) or by reducing it more, which can be risky–the thicker the sauce, the more you have to stir to avoid burning it.