Sunday, January 30, 2011

Linguine with Creamy Goat Cheese Marinara Sauce

I love pasta with cream sauce, but while I don't mind buying jarred marinara sauce, I find jarred cream-based sauces kind of icky.  There's something about dairy hanging out on a shelf. Gross.  I wanted to make something delicious and rich for dinner tonight (it was one of those days) but didn't have any of the ingredients for an alfredo or other creamy sauce so I improvised.  I had a container of goat cheese in my fridge and some roasted red pepper arrabiata sauce (kind of like spicy marinara sauce) and thought that maybe I could mix up the goat cheese and marinara and make a faux-vodka sauce with a bit of tang.  Luckily, it somehow worked out and not only wasn't it not disgusting--it was so good I kept getting up to refill my bowl while I watched re-runs that all of a sudden I was SO FULL. With no good reason other than...goat cheese marinara covered linguine with sweet baby bella mushrooms and fresh zucchini. 

I added zucchini because it's what I had on hand, and I felt like lightening the pasta up, so use whatever you have. Or no veggies at all, because as you can tell, the star of the show was simply the pasta with the delicious sauce.  (Made from jarred sauce! Take that, jarred-sauce-haters)

What you'll need:
red sauce
goat cheese
baby bella mushrooms
veggies of your choice (I used zucchini, obviously)

Start by rinsing the mushrooms and slicing them in half.

Put them in a pan on low heat with a little bit of balsamic vinegar.  The vinegar is totally unnecessary but it makes the mushrooms a little bit sweet, which I love.

While those are cooking, put linguine in boiling salted water.  I used Trader Joe's linguine which was super cheap and delicious.  Follow the directions on the back of the pasta package to figure out how long to cook the pasta for so its still a bit chewy when done.

Slice the zucchini into chunks about as big as the mushrooms.

Also, chop up some onion (whatever type you like) and garlic.

When the pasta is almost done, start cooking the onion and garlic in a pan with a bit of olive oil.  Add the zucchini when the onion has turned translucent.

If the mushrooms are done at this point, just turn off the heat and let them hang out while you get everything else together.
A million things going on in my little kitchen:
When the zucchini is done (tender but not mushy) add the drained linguine to the pan.  Pour in either a marinara or arrabiata sauce of your choice.  (Any red sauce--and if you want to make the sauce yourself, I'm sure this dish would taste even better!)
When I poured in my sauce, I realized the sauce was a bit watery (not so great) so I let it simmer there for a second so some water would evaporate.

This doesn't look that appealing, does it?  I was still skeptical at this point, too.
When your sauce is evenly distributed, slowly fold in crumbled goat cheese, until your pasta is pink, and kind of looks like a vodka sauce.
Still doesn't look that great right?  I was starting to second-guess myself...

Put some pasta into a bowl and add your mushrooms and sprinkle goat cheese on top.
After putting it into a bowl and adding all the goodies, somehow this pasta transformed itself from goop to godly goodness.  I don't know what happened, except for the fact that it tasted rich and tangy and sweet without being too heavy.  The mushrooms added a touch of woody sweetness and the zucchini a bite of freshness.  
How does it look now?  

My second helping...


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Braised Asian Beef Short Ribs (crockpot)

c During finals my mother took pity on me and my poor nutrition habits and bought me a crockpot, hoping that the easy and time friendly recipes would help me get some of the nutrition I needed during the pizza binges of the last few weeks.  However, it remained unopened until today, when I decided to cook these short ribs that have been sitting in my freezer for the last few weeks.  
My cute little crockpot:

Short ribs are pretty cheap (about 3.99 a pound in some grocery stores) and taste delicious when slow cooked over a couple of hours.  I say that because all the short ribs I've eaten in restaurants have been delicious and tender--let's see how mine come out before I extol the virtues of the short rib!  Suffice to say, well-cooked short ribs are delicious.
Why has it taken me so long to cook these ribs?  Well, for one thing, I've been looking for the perfect recipe.  I wanted something delicious that I could put over noodles or rice, and chop up and put into a delicious sandwich.  I scoured the internet and put together this recipe from a few asian braised short rib recipes I found (Anyone who knows me knows how much I love any asian food!).  The recipe below consists of the ingredients I liked from a number of different recipes.  This is also, as I discovered, a three day process so try this out when you don't want something to eat right away and you have a little patience!

Day 1:
Make the marinade and take the frozen short ribs out of the freezer to defrost.  (Put them into your fridge)
Mix together:
1 cup soy sauce (I did half low sodium, half regular)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 splash of orange juice, or up to about 1/4 cup
5 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons fresh chopped ginger
2 cups water
A squirt of sriracha
1/2 cup brown sugar
Your marinade should look like this:
Let the flavors meld together overnight in your fridge

Day 2
Take the defrosted or fresh meat out of your fridge and brown the meat on all sides in a hot pan with a bit of vegetable oil.
Throw the meat into the crockpot with the marinade.
Don't touch it for 8ish hours. 

When it's done, the meat will literally be falling off the ribs.  I couldn't help myself--I had already eaten dinner but I had to try them fresh out of the pot.  They were DELICIOUS.  But, sadly, I held off and stuck them in the fridge, along with the sauce, which I put into a separate container.  The separation of sauce and meat is what turns this into a three day recipe.  Yes, you can sit down and eat the meat and delicious sauce in all its wonderful glory.  However, the short ribs give off a ton of fat when they cook and if you refrigerate the sauce overnight, it's easier to take the (thick) layer of fat off of the sauce and then reheat the ribs.

They looked like this after 8 hours in the crockpot:

After I took the ribs out, I realized exactly what I wanted to eat them with.  At first, I had wanted to make a complete meal, with chinese noodles and baby bella mushrooms.  Unfortunately, because of class schedule, I realized a large meal was infeasible and I just wanted to eat this delicious mess on a sandwich.  With, obviously, asian-ish accoutrement.  So, before I went to bed, I thinly sliced green cabbage, yellow onion (because it's sweeter than red onion) and chopped up some garlic.  I put this in a container with rice wine vinegar, vegetable oil, a bit of sugar and honey, and a touch of sesame oil to sit and marinate overnight.  (Use those ingredients in whatever proportions, I just add a bit of each until I like the flavor).  I also added a touch of sriracha for kick.

Day 3
After you've skimmed the fat off (ew) put the sauce and ribs in a pot and gently heat them up.  
Skimming off the fat:
When the meat and sauce are in the pot, break up the meat with a fork and it'll look something like this:

Heat up some really thick and crusty bread and assemble the sandwich!

I am not sure I've ever made something so delicious before!  I added a touch of chili mayo, the slaw and the beef and it turned out perfect.  It's messy, sweet, spicy, vinegary and mmm.  I can't wait to try this again with other marinades and other meats.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lettuce Wraps for Lunch

Read this post if....
1. you're hungry
2. it's lunchtime'd like something not as heavy as a sandwich and not as wimpy as a salad
4. you miss Jimmy Johns lettuce wraps (what? you never tried one of their lettuce wraps? Go find one right now. Wait, you can't because you're in NY and Jimmy Johns has yet to make it's way over here? Ok, continue reading...)
5. you want something delicious and cheap
About twenty minutes ago, I was all of the above.  So I decided on lettuce wraps for lunch and am REALLY glad I did.  I think you'll like these!
What you'll need:
Romaine lettuce
Sandwich meat
Sandwich toppings
Yes, these ingredients are purposely vague because this lunch basically just incorporates whatever you have in the fridge or whatever you feel like eating at the moment.
 Start out by cleaning two large romaine leaves
Add some condiments.  On the left leaf I put some spicy mayo (mayo+sriracha) and on the right, some dijon mustard.
Add some meat and/or cheese.  Hard salami on the left, and Swiss on the right.
Now it's time for the toppings!  Add some of whatever you like!  Roasted red peppers, sprouts and more meat! (I used turkey as well on the right one)
More toppings!  Thinly sliced cucumbers on the left, chopped jarred artichokes on the right.
Oh wow. These are good.

Some more ideas, especially for the vegetarians out there: add some avocados, grilled tofu, grilled zucchini, hot or banana peppers....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Balsamic Broccolini with Golden Raisins aka I miss BARcelona

You may not think of St. Louis as a mecca of culinary talent, filled with outstanding little restaurants that are worthy of bigger cities at smaller prices.  You, however, should pay a visit.  I spent my four years of college eating my way through those little restaurants and thoroughly enjoying it.  One of my go-tos and a favorite of all my friends as well was BARcelona, a tapas restaurant in Clayton.  Everything on the menu was delicious, but my favorite veggie option was the broccolini.  Sweet with a little balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes and covered in sliced garlic.  I could easily eat two or three orders of it!

MMM I miss it!
So, bored of studying one night during finals, I tried to recreate it with some variations and I think you'll like making this as an easy side dish.
What you'll need:
broccolini (cheap at trader joes!)
lemon juice
balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar
garlic (sliced thinly)
golden raisins (although sundried tomatoes would be great as well)

Put the washed broccolini in a large pan

Add lemon juice, water and a touch of balsamic vinegar and let the broccolini steam until tender.  You can hurry this up by putting a cover on the pan.  I didn't have a cover though and it worked out fine.

While these are steaming, put the golden raisins in a bowl of warm water to plump them up.  If you're using sun-dried tomatoes, you can skip that step.

If you don't have balsamic glaze on hand (about 10 dollars in a whole foods or specialty food store and it'll last you over a year) then put some balsamic vinegar in a pot and it reduce until sweet and a bit sticky.

When the broccolini are slightly tender but still crunchy, throw the raisins in and let them heat up.  
Take it all off the stove and drizzle it with balsamic glaze.
SO SO SO good!

This was absolutely delicious on its own, but if you want to spice it up, add some pine nuts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Breakfast Tacos

Here's a simple breakfast you can make in under 5 minutes for under 5 bucks.  It's hearty and it'll keep you full for a while without being heavy.  I make this breakfast allll the time but with different elements---I change up the cheese, or the carb of the day, or even the spices.  So, feel free to adapt this to your liking.
What you'll need:
2 eggs
salt, pepper to taste
cheese (any kind--I used cheddar today)
Mini tortillas
Salsa/Ketchup or both

Begin by frying two eggs.  Eventually they'll end up scrambled, but I like to do that near the end so I can taste some of the yolk in there.
 Then (although I forgot to snap a picture) cover the eggs in cheese and fold it in, breaking the yolk.  Or, simply scramble the eggs however you like.
Add some salt and pepper.  If you like your eggs a bit spicy and savory, add some chili powder and garlic powder 
Heat up the tortillas in a pan.  No pam, butter or anything necessary.  Just like them a bit warm.
 Take them off the pan and add your favorite salsa.  I like black bean and corn salsa, so I also put a touch of ketchup on the plate as well.
 Add the eggs

Eat!  These were delicious on their own, but next time I'll try adding some mushrooms, bacon, or even some peppers and onions.
If you don't like tortillas, try pan-frying polenta and putting the eggs on top of that:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

So I haven't posted in quite a while due to finals and well, more finals.  Thankfully, I made it through first semester, but barely, I have to do a better job actually making those good-to-reheat recipes I kept blabbing about!
While I didn't have the chance to cook that often, I do have a few recipes that I've made pretty quickly while studying so I'll post them over the next few days to catch up.  
This recipe is awesome because it basically helps fight what I hate most--throwing away food I never got a chance to eat.  I love tomatoes but I often don't get to eat the whole carton before they get a little mushy.  This recipe basically calls for those tomatoes that are on the verge of being not good anymore and extends their life by one more week.  Plus, while the pictures look kind of meh,  they tasted pretttttyyy delicious.  
Throw these tomatoes in salads, on top of bread with melted cheese, on sandwiches or really, anything.  
All you have to do is cut up whatever tomatoes you have one hand. Fresh ones work too, but I love fresh tomatoes so much I probably wouldn't use them.
Drizzle them with olive oil, a touch of sea salt and a few herbs of your choice.
Scatter garlic cloves throughout the pan.
Preheat the oven to about 225 degrees.
Stick the tomatoes in for about 3 hours, checking on them towards the end to make sure they don't burn (bigger chunks probably won't burn in 3 hours though, although my cherry tomato halves began to burn)
When you take them out, they should be sweet, and a little juicy on the inside.

True, these don't look like the tastiest morsels but they are awesome--a little salty, garlicky, sweet and chewy!
To keep them for the next week, put them in a jar covered with olive oil and the garlic cloves.