August 25, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce in Photos

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , at 8:53 pm by jenniec00ks

This recipe requires a few simple ingredients but yields a sweet sauce full of depth and flavor.  It’s roots are based from Rachael Ray’s Gemelli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  However, it does require a food processor in order to get the full incorporation of the bell peppers.  If you don’t have one, chop the bell peppers as finely as you can and try this recipe out anyway.

This serves 2-3 people, and for those who must have their meat – try pairing it with the spicy shrimp recipe to come!

2 fresh red peppers (see below for details/jar substitutions)
1/2 lb. of any kind of pasta you like, Rachael Ray uses spirals, I anything lying around
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots
14.5 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine or chicken/vegetable broth

PS, click any picture for a larger view!

roastedredpepper 005I’m starting with 2 fresh red bell peppers that have been blistered under a broiler, peeled, and sliced which you can replicate for special occasions.  The whole process only takes maybe 10 minutes plus cooling time.  On the weeknights that you’re pressed for time, go ahead and start with some roasted red bell peppers in a jar.  I believe they’re usually packed in water with some preservatives, so you might want to give them a rinse before you start.  And if you’re using the jarred kind, I’d estimate about a cup sliced and 1/2 cup after it’s been pureed (8 oz? if anyone tries this, please report back!)

roastedredpepper 007roastedredpepper 008

We’re starting off high powered with the food processor to finely chop these bell peppers.  Use the pulse option – the roasted peppers will have a lot of water in them and we don’t want to make soup.  No more than 5 pulses should do the trick.

If you only have a blender (which is a staple in many college kitchens for frozen drinks, e.g. smoothies of course), you can add some chicken (or vegetable) broth or white wine to help it blend (no more than a 1/2 cup, less if possible, you can always add in but you can’t take liquid out.)  If you don’t have either a blender or a food processor, guess you’ll be working on your knife skills!

roastedredpepper 009roastedredpepper 010Speaking of knife skills, chop up a couple shallots and a couple cloves of garlic (more or less to your taste, I went a bit heavy on the shallots).  And before you tell me I can’t count, there were 2 smaller shallots inside each of the paper casing.  Heat up a tablespoon of oil on medium heat in a skillet/saucepan.  The skillet I used was clearly a bit large for this application.  Oops.

Anyway, after everything is chopped, toss it in the pre-heated pan and saute for ~2-3 minutes.  Then add the roasted red peppers and give it a stir.  If you had to add the liquid earlier (wine/veg broth/chkn broth) then let this simmer for ~4-5 minutes to concentrate the flavor.  If not, then saute the red pepper mixture (bottom right) for 2-3 minutes.  Right about now it should be smelling fantabulous in your kitchen.

roastedredpepper 011roastedredpepper 012

If you still haven’t added the liquid of your choice (wine/veg broth/chkn broth) it’s time do it now and let the liquid reduce for 2-3 minutes.

roastedredpepper 013We’re definitely going for flavor than to let the wine/broth water down the sauce.  The crushed tomatoes will provide plenty of liquid to create the sauce.  Speaking of which, time for the tomatoes to come to the party.

roastedredpepper 015

Et voila! Dress up any pasta with this fantastic sauce!


June 19, 2009

Garlic Spinach Alfredo

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , at 12:14 am by jenniec00ks

salmonalfredo 001


So I forgot to take pictures while I was cooking again – but here’s the quick and dirty of what I made for dinner tonight:

Makes ~3 servings (Vegetarian suggestions/changes at the end!)

7 large garlic cloves
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 box of frozen spinach (10 oz.)
Dash of nutmeg, S&P
1/4 cup of mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese (optional)
1 package of smoked salmon (4 oz. – taste for saltiness first!  You’ll be surprised)
8 oz. long pasta (spaghetti was good)

1. Get the pasta on to boil for however long the box says (I did al dente spaghetti for 10 minutes).  Drain well when ready.

1.5.  Pop the frozen spinach in the microwave and cook according to the box.  Something like 5 minutes on high sounds about right.  Squeeze and drain off as much water out as possible with a fork.

2. Melt the butter on medium-low heat.  I used my typical 10″ saucepan thingie.

3. While the butter is melting, finely chop the garlic.

4. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes, until the garlic is very fragrant.

5. Add the 1/4 cup of flour to the saucepan and stir.  You’re making a roux and it should be very clumpy and pasty looking.  No worries, we’ll smooth it out soon.

6.  Pour the milk slowly into the pan (over about 30 seconds time window), stirring as you go.  Try to mash up the roux pieces as you pour.

7.  Stir the alfredo sauce constantly, making sure the roux is completely dissolved (the chunks left will be garlic of course).

8. Add the dash of ground nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

9. Add the cheese if you desire, and stir.  This should thicken up the sauce considerably.  Turn the heat off after the sauce coats the back of the spoon (i.e. dip the spoon in, run your CLEAN finger on the back, the sauce should not encroach over the area where you just ran your finger).

10.  Add the drained spinach, drained pasta, and smoked salmon pieces to the alfredo sauce.  Toss and serve!


Just a few notes, if your sauce turns green, then you just didn’t drain the spinach very well.  No big deal, try again next time.  It won’t damage the taste at all.  Secondly – WATCH your sauce once you get the milk in.  After about 3 minutes it should start to thicken up, and once it begins to thicken, it will get very dense, very fast.  Get it off the heat if it looks like your sauce is turning to solid.

For my vegetarian buddies, omit the smoked salmon, and cook 8oz of quartered white button mushrooms (or creminis for an extra punch of flavor!) before you start step 2 (the butter).  The mushrooms will give off some water and darken your alfredo sauce, so you want to cook them separately and add them in at the end in place of the smoked salmon.  salmonalfredo 002

May 27, 2009

Chili Pasta in Photos

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , , at 8:47 pm by jenniec00ks

chilipasta 008So this past Memorial Day weekend I was at home with some big appetites to feed.  This recipe will feed 4-6 people.  The picture on the left was taken after 2-3 helpings were gone.  Most all of my other recipes are really designed for 2 servings (I eat one for dinner and bring the other to work the next day).  While this recipe can be enjoyed piping hot, it also tastes great at room temperature; and can easily be made in proportions to feed an army.

My mom found the original recipe in a Cooking Light magazine, but here’s how I made it.

ChiliPasta 001


1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 box of wagon wheel pasta
8 oz. can of tomato sauce
14.5 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes (they’re becoming more common these days)
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium white)
1 can of pinto beans (~14 oz?)
2 cups water
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chili powder*
1 tsp ground cumin*
1 tsp dried oregano*

* Don’t forget – if you don’t keep these spices on hand, try to find bulk bins that seem to be growing more popular at local grocery stores. I get mine from HEB, Sprouts, or Central Market.

For this recipe, you’re going to want to use a saucepan that you have a cover for.  If none of your pans have a cover, you can use a large piece of foil if you must.

ChiliPasta 002Add a teaspoon of oil over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, and ground turkey.  I really like the taste and lack of fat in ground turkey – but if you must use ground beef that’s any less than 96% lean, you probably don’t need the oil to begin.  And you probably should drain the fat after this step.

ChiliPasta 004

Anyway, season this mixture with salt and pepper to taste if you’d like.  Cook until the turkey is fully cooked (see above).  Then add the oregano, chili powder, cumin, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the pinto beans.  Give this a stir for ~1 minute.

ChiliPasta 004Then add the 2 cups of water and 1/2 the box of pasta.  Let this come to a simmer, cover the pan, and turn the heat down to low (enough to keep a simmer though).  Let this bubble for about 18 minutes or until the pasta is soft.

ChiliPasta 006ChiliPasta 007

Dish into bowls and top with your favorite cheese – I had a cheddar and monterey jack blend on hand and it blended well with the flavors.  As a side note, you can double the chili powder portion to 4 teaspoons of chili powder if you like it spicy.

Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

May 6, 2009

Shrimp and Feta Penne in Photos

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , at 11:09 pm by jenniec00ks

Yum-O!!  Shrimp and Feta Pasta

Yum-O!! Shrimp and Feta Pasta

So this is essentially Rachael Ray’s “Anna Maria’s Greek Shrimp and Feta Penne” from her Classic 30-Minute Meals cookbook.  We’re using that marjoram and feta from the Red Onion Pasta I showed y’all the other day.

shrimpandfeta-001Frozen shrimp is a fabulous protein to keep on hand because it keeps well over several weeks time and more importantly, dethaws in just minutes under running cold water.  I recommend the “easy peel” kind that have a cut down the back and the vein removed.  The “vein” is shrimp’s digestive track and looks like a black thread running down the back.  I have also found that peeling the shrimp under running water makes it easier to peel and washes out any remains of a vein as well.  Shrimp are labeled with the usual unhelpful relative terms small, medium, large, etc., so pay attention to the count in the bag.  The numbers will look something like “31/40” (on large) or “41/50” (on medium).  The numbers represent how many of that size shrimp constitute a pound, i.e. 31-40 large shrimp will weigh ~1lb.  I used about 14-16 large shrimp for 2 servings.

shrimpandfeta-002Moving on, you’ll also need half a box of penne, a touch of white wine, ~18oz. of crushed tomatoes (I had to use diced, it’s all I could find that day), 1/2 of the 8oz. box of crumbled feta cheese (any variety you like, I’m still using up the reduced-fat I had last night), and some fresh marjoram.  The parsley is optional, and as is any Italian dried herb combination you’ve got on hand.  To start, I really like garlic so I put 6 cloves in this dish; if you don’t share my love for it, you could go with 3 to still flavor the sauce.  Let’s have a quick garlic peel/chop recap, shall we?



Separate the cloves, lay your knife flat over one clove, give it a light whack (avoid the blade), and the peel should come right off.  Then mince as fine as you’d like.

As usual, get a pot of water on to boil (high heat, with a cover).  You can add salt to the water to “flavor the pasta” as many would recommend, however, I find you have to add an awful lot of salt to taste the difference in the pasta.  When the water boils, remove the cover and add about 2 cups of pasta (1 cup is a pretty large serving of penne).  Always boil the pasta uncovered, otherwise the starchy water will foam up and overflow.  Cook the penne for however long your box says, mine goes for ~11 minutes.

shrimpandfeta-012Heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the usual saucepan/wok over medium heat.  After the oil is heated, get the chopped garlic in.  If your garlic turns brown, your heat was too high!  Pick up the pan and lower the heat like I did.  After about a minute, I added ~1/3 cup of white wine.  If you’ve got an open-flame cooking range (usually gas), make sure you MOVE THE PAN off the fire before adding alcohol.  Let the alcohol bubble off for about 3 minutes, after that about half of what you added should be left in the pan.

shrimpandfeta-013shrimpandfeta-014Then add the crushed (in my case, diced) tomatoes and let it simmer for a minute.  Add the crumbled feta cheese and stir so that it melts.  Don’t be disturbed if the crumbled kind doesn’t melt all the way into the sauce, it doesn’t always for me.

While you’re stirring in the feta cheese, add the fresh marjoram and any dried herbs you’d like to flavor the tomatoes.  I happen to have some McCormick’s Italian blend nearby, so I threw a pinch or two in.  Then it’s time for the shrimp!shrimpandfeta-015shrimpandfeta-017

Stir in the shrimp and let it simmer for a few minutes, or until the shrimp become pink and begin to curl.  Then it’s time to turn off the burner and add the pasta and fresh parsley.  Give it a good toss together, then you’re ready to serve!


Bon appetit!  Wait, one more thing.  If you don’t take out your trash on a daily basis, throwing those shrimp shells away raw will make your kitchen smell something fierce by the next morning.

shrimpandfeta-016So drain your pasta water over the shrimp shells to cook them, and be sure to get them outside within 48 hours.  If it’ll be longer than that, put them in a plastic bag and tie it shut to keep the odors in.  If you’re really dedicated to stocks, you could also freeze your shrimp shells ’till you collect a pound or two to make shrimp stock out of.  I’ve only done it once or twice to make a fabulous gumbo base.

May 4, 2009

Red Onion Pasta with Easy Seared Porkchop in Photos

Posted in Misc. Main Dishes, Pasta: stovetop tagged , , at 10:17 pm by jenniec00ks

So this is really Giada’s Spaghetti with Sauteed Onions and Marjoram, but I felt Red Onion Pasta was a much more descriptive name.  I think this is a particularly light and quick cooking dinner – perfect for any weeknight.  So let’s hop to it!

redonionpasta-001Really these five ingredients are all you need to make a delicious vegetarian dinner for two – and not even really all of them.

1.  1 red onion (~1lb) -I bought an organic red onion because it was also the smallest I could find at a little over 1 pound!

2. 8 oz. tub of reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese -you’ll only need half the tub of feta cheese, and you can get any kind that floats your boat (I’ve seen garlic/herb, tomato/basil, full or low-fat varieties) – I chose the cheapest in the store that day.

3. meyer lemon olive oil -I happen to have meyer lemon olive oil since splurged on it at Central Market, but you can easily use lemon zest and a delicious extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).

4. vermicelli – thinner than spaghetti, fatter than angel hair, but you can use any kind of long pasta you want.  Vermicelli takes about 5 minutes in boiling water to be al dente.

5. fresh marjoram – you can sub in fresh oregano (they’re related).  I really wouldn’t skip out on the fresh herb this time though, it’s a pretty essential flavor since there are so few ingredients – plus I’ll have another recipe another tomorrow that uses up the marjoram and feta cheese.

Since I needed my protein, I added a seared boneless pork sirloin chop with some simple spices I had on hand: salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme, and a few crushed red pepper flakes.  But that comes last. As usual, get the water on to boil for the pasta while you prep the lemon oil and slice the onion.  Zest a small lemon (or 1/2 a large one) and add it to ~2 tablespoons of EVOO.  When the water’s boiling, get the long pasta in and give it a swirl for ~30 seconds so that everyone gets submerged and no one sticks.


Then cut the top and bottom of the onion, cut it in half, and peel the outer papery layers away.  Here’s my onion chopping photo sequence, but you only need the first four photos.  Then I cut the onion in half and made thin slices (quarter-inch, ish?) while I heated up another couple tablespoons of EVOO in my usual saucepan over medium heat.


I know it looks like a lot of onion, but it’s really what beefs up the flavor of the dish.  After the pan’s been heating for 3-4 minutes, get all the onions in.  Give them a toss every few minutes so that the onions can really soften and begin to carmelize (they’ll be almost sweet with a light golden color).  This is how mine progressed:


I find this takes about 10 minutes.  If your pasta finishes while your onions are still cooking, drain them of most the water (keep a few tablespoons in to loosen the pasta later).  After your onions are soft, toss in the marjoram or oregano – I would say you need about 1.5 teaspoons chopped.


Stir in the fresh herbs for about a minute, the aroma in your kitchen should blossom right about now.  Here’s where you want to add some salt and pepper to your taste.  Then get about half of that feta cheese container into the pan along with the pasta and leftover starchy cooking water.  Turn the heat down to low and let the flavors mingle for a few minutes before killing the heat.

The Red Onion Pasta Finalé!

The Red Onion Pasta Finalé!

Get the pasta into a serving bowl & cover it with foil if you want to sear a porkchop or two to go with it.  Like I mentioned earlier, I took a 1″ thick boneless pork sirloin chop and cut in half as evenly as possible to make two 1/2″ thick porkchops.  Thinner porkchops will take less time to cook through – so you can get a nice sear on the outside while still fully cooking the cutlet.  I seasoned them with S&P, garlic powder, and dried thyme.  I added a little more oil to the pan over medium-high heat and added a few crushed red pepper flakes to spice up the oil a touch.  Then I put the cutlets in the pan side by side, 2-3 minutes on each side.  To get a nice sear, don’t touch the chops after you’ve put them in the pan, unless you’re ready to flip.  Flip only once, and then only budge them again to take them out the pan.  Technically they should be cooked to 160 degrees fahrenheit, but just make sure the juices run clear and there’s just a hint of pink when cut through.

Beautifully seared with just a touch of spice!

Beautifully seared with just a touch of spice!

My dinner - it could be yours too!

My dinner - it could be yours too!

Y’all enjoy now!

April 23, 2009

Mushroom & Arugula Pasta

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , at 11:24 pm by jenniec00ks

So tonight I was really hungry and not feeling so well, so I wanted something comforting that wasn’t *too* fattening.  Comfort food is a personal thing, and I happen to love mushrooms and bright lemony greens.  So I dropped by the Whole Foods (they say sad people spend more) and headed straight for the produce section.  I thought about some hen of the woods and oyster mushrooms as they’re some of my favorite wild mushrooms, but at $25 and $17 a pound…I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge that much.  So I picked up some nice looking white buttons, creminis (baby portobellos), and one big daddy portobello.  Not terribly exotic, but still delicious and only ran me a couple bucks for about a 1/2lb of mushrooms.  Now for the fresh greens, I settled on baby arugula since I had never tried it before.


The finished product!

I didn’t take pictures while experimenting because I was super hungry, but next time.  I will definitely be making this again.  Here’s the recipe for now (it makes 2 servings and didn’t take more than 20ish minutes).


1 lemon

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/2 a bag of baby arugula (~2.5 oz)

1/2 lb of your favorite mushrooms

1/2 lb long pasta (I used linguine, bucatini/fettuccine/spaghetti work too)

1/2 cup of half & half

1/4 cup of white wine (I use a sauvignon blanc)

1/4 cup of the delicious EVOO for dressing the arugala & 2 tablespoons of any ‘ole olive oil for sauteeing.


0.  Zest (again w/ the microplane) & juice (watch out for the seeds!) the lemon, and add it to the 1/4 cup of the good EVOO.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste then set it aside.

1.  Start a pan warming up with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Also start a pot of water over high heat for the pasta.

2.  Rinse & thickly slice (think rough chop if you’ve got odd shapes) all the mushrooms.  Then put them in the pan for ~10 minutes stirring occasionally.

3.  When the water boils, put the pasta in for however long the box says.  My linguine took ~13 minutes for al dente.

4.  The mushrooms should be very dark and soft after 10 minutes, then add the white wine.

5.  When most the wine has been absorbed/evaporated, add the half & half and STIR gently, frequently.   You don’t want a film to form over the half & half.  Let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes and add salt, pepper, and a dash or two of dried thyme.

6.  OPTIONAL STEP: Strain the zest from the lemon/olive oil mixture.  This is optional because it takes a pretty fine mesh to catch zest.

7.  Toss the arugula with the lemon/olive oil mixture you made in step 0.  You can eat it as a side dish or fold it in to the hot pasta to wilt it a little.  I wilted mine in for the first helping, but was too anxious the second time around and ate it walking back from the kitchen.

Enjoy!!  And I count from 0 because it’s logical to me, afterall arrays are indexed starting with 0.  🙂

April 21, 2009

Receipe recommendation: Using up that Ricotta

Posted in Pasta: stovetop, Rambling tagged , , at 9:05 pm by jenniec00ks



So the first dish only used about 1/2 to 3/4 of the typical 15oz. tub of ricotta cheese.  You could make a super-mini lasagna or Giada’s whole-wheat linguine with green beans, ricotta, and lemon.  I guess her lengthy title just about sums up that dish.  It’s fast, healthy, and you can’t taste the whole-wheat in the pasta.  I’ve made twice but didn’t quite capture it on camera – so I’ll do it in photos some other time.  I just couldn’t let that bit of ricotta left in your fridge spoil.

PS, this recipe is also in her latest cookbook, Giada’s Kitchen, in case the link above stops working.