Not that I haven’t always been an odd duck, but as a child, I didn’t eat any sort of seafood except for oysters. Fish was assumed to taste the way it smelled, crabs looked like spidery ocean monsters, and shrimp had to have been the grossest looking things I’d ever seen. But oysters! How I loved them so! My favorite preparation was fried with lots of lemon and ketchup, and I would adore the nights our family and extended family would pile into the car to go to the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House for their All-You-Can-Eat extravaganza. I’ve grown to become EEO about seafood (I’m sorry for judging you guys!) and adore just about every fresh catch I can get my hands on, but oysters hold a special place in my heart. Continue reading Oyster Rockefeller Dressing
What do you call cheese that’s not yours? Nacho cheese! Hahahahaha!!!
What? Not funny? There’s no accounting for taste these days. But know that regardless of your sense of humor, you will adore the creamy, spicy goodness that is this chile con queso. Because it is scandalous in its majesty. Escandalo!
This recipe is my mom’s passed down to her from my grandmother. We used to have this dip around Christmas and New Year’s, devoured as quickly as we could while still hot. More than your typical melted cheese with peppers, the base of this sauce comes from smoky bacon. To make matters even more dangerous, we’d occasionally dip pork rinds (!) into the cheese in addition to tortilla chips. Say wha? Don’t knock it till you try it. Continue reading Chile con Queso
Back when I was rocking plaid skirts and a blazer in high school (and even before that as a tagalong with my mom’s running club), we used to frequent a quirky eatery called Generous George’s Positive Pizza and Pasta Place. Fake flamingos and pink and teal paint dripping with kitsch and childhood memorabilia everywhere, it looked a little like Miami Vice and Parker Brothers got together as an interior design firm. And do I recall a shark hanging from the ceiling? Or maybe a surf board? It was probably both.
Aesthetics aside, the place was too fun. The pizzas featured airy, pliant dough with mounds of toppings and cheese. And the pastas, all served on a single-sized pizza crust, were epic sized portions that even my dad’s appetite could not slay. People left the place with takeout boxes and close to a pound of pasta in leftovers. My mom usually got the red or white clam, Dad loved Old Naples with crumbled sausage and melted cheese, and Lexi usually ordered a personal pizza and pretended to be full after a bite or two so that she could get away with ordering dessert. I used to be a sucker for the Chicken Romano Fettucine, basically alfredo with chicken, ham, peas and mushrooms, until I ordered the Rosemary Chicken Florentine on a whim. The first time made me a convert – farfalle tossed with tender chicken, spinach, bacon, roasted red peppers in a rosemary cream sauce. It was ridiculous. Preposterous. I was hooked.
Years have gone by since I’ve rolled down Duke Street in Alexandria to see our old haunt, and it turns out that there’s only my memories of the place to serve me now. My sister posted on Facebook that the location was demoed and is now a PNC Bank. I wondered if they auctioned off the merry-go-round pony that was in the main dining room? Anyways, rather than put on my old school uniform, I decided to relive a classic and make a heaping mess of the beloved pasta. I cut back the fat on the sauce, using milk instead of cream, and I didn’t have a pizza crust to use as a plate. But it was still ridiculous. Still preposterous. And apparently, I’m still hooked.
Rosemary Chicken Florentine Pasta
2 chicken breasts
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 c. of chicken stock
1 c. of white wine
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
2 bay leaves
4 strips of bacon
4 cloves of garlic
6 oz. of roasted red peppers, sliced
6 oz. of baby spinach
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of chopped rosemary leaves
1 lb. of dried pasta cuts (farfalle, conchiglie, ziti, penne)
6 tbs. of butter
3 tbs. of flour
2 1/2 c. of whole milk
1 c. of locatelli
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
Begin by cooking the chicken. Add two boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a saucepan with the stock, wine, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. of white pepper, 1/2 tsp. of black pepper, 2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and let cool slightly. Shred with two forks. Set aside.
Now make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour, white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg. Add the milk, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps. Turn the heat to medium and whisk until thickened. Stir in the locatelli and remove from the heat. Stir in the roasted red peppers. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to box directions. While the water comes to a boil, add bacon to a skillet and brown. Toss in garlic, rosemary, spinach and the olive oil and cook until spinach is wilted. Season with a little extra salt and black pepper and set aside.
When the pasta finishes, drain and toss with the red pepper cream sauce, spinach/chicken/garlic/rosemary mixture. Top with extra grated locatelli and serve hot.
I don’t know why, but this recipe makes me think of Napoleon Dynamite and his aunt yelling at him to make himself “a dang quesa-DILL-a”. Nobody would need to twist my arm to make this quesadilla – scrambled eggs and crisp bacon join melted cheddar and mild green chiles, sandwiched between two perfectly crisped flour tortillas. It beats a traditional bacon, egg and cheese sandwich any day of the week, and the portable nature of pliant triangles of breakfasty goodness make this a prime contender for late-night, post-drinking binge food. Come to think of it, this quesadilla is the perfect reminder that breakfast is good at just about any hour of the day.
Making a quesadilla is similar to a grilled cheese sandwich – if you cook the thing over high heat, the outside will burn before the cheese gets a chance to melt. Cook your quesadilla slowly to allow it to crisp up as the cheddar turns into melty gloriousness.
1 tbs. of butter
1/2 tbs. of olive oil or cooking spray
6 eggs, beaten
4 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
3 tbs. of chopped roasted green chiles
black pepper to taste
3 large flour tortillas
3/4 c. of shredded cheddar
cilantro to garnish
Warm a pan over medium heat and add the butter. Slip the eggs into the pan and stir slowly, allowing the eggs to form curds. Shut off the heat while the eggs are still wet and stir in the chiles and bacon. Place a tortilla on a cutting board and top with 1/3 of the eggs. Sprinkle a 1/4 of cheese on top and fold the tortilla over to create a half-moon. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas, eggs and cheese.
Heat a large skillet over medium-low and add the olive oil. Cook each quesadilla until golden brown and toasted, about 5-6 minutes on each side. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut each half-moon into 3 triangles. Serve with salsa or guacamole.
I have such great memories of amatriciana sauce in Italy – friends and I used to frequent a mom and pop pizzeria in the town we lived in as one of our favorite haunts. The husband waitered, the wife cooked and the son bused the tables out of a front shop with an adjoining apartment behind the kitchen, making you feel a cherished guest at a friend’s house rather than a customer. We typically went for piping hot pizzettas with pliant blistered crusts, tart tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella. One evening, I came home from class feeling exhausted and weighted down by a horrible headache. My friends were running over to the restaurant and asked if I’d like something. I asked them to bring me back some Pasta all’Amatriciana – a mouthful to pronounce but ever so delicious. When they brought me my food, they brought me real silverware to eat with. The mom was sure that we’d be back to return them, making us feel all the more like family.
Their classic version featured delicious guanciale, basically the jowl of the pig cured into bacon, but I like to use thick cut bacon for everyday amatriciana. You can also use pancetta, with the rendered fat from the bacon allowing the onions to mellow into sweetness. The whole thing is bound together by a tomato sauce of rich San Marzano tomatoes and white wine. It’s a glorious sauce, and takes about as long to prepare as it does to boil a pot of pasta. Good stuff considering that sometimes you don’t want to wait until the weekend (or a trip to Italy) to indulge in a meal fit for a king.
5 slices of thick bacon, sliced into slivers
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. of wine
3 cloves of garlic
pinch of black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
4 c. of fresh tomato sauce
1/4 c. of grated locatelli
salt to taste
1 lb. of spaghetti
4 tbs. of freshly chopped parsley
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. While the water heats up, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Add the onions to the pan and cook until very soft and golden. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine reduces by half. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Season with the black pepper and crushed red pepper. Pour in the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in the grated cheese and taste for salt.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and add the sauce. Top with the chopped parsley and additional grated cheese and crushed red pepper.
I love a good story, and with a name like “Green Goddess” you know there’s a bit of a tale lingering around. An almost kitschy throwback to the 1920s and 30s, the dressing is a zesty combination of fresh herbs, anchovies and sour cream, enlivened by a little bit of lemon juice. The name supposedly originates from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco where the dressing was made as a tribute to the hit play, “The Green Goddess,” and alas, a star was born.
My guess is that the popularity of this gem died down with the waning of favor over anchovies – a pity, really, in that the flavor profile of anchovies themselves are addictive. If people can down caesar dressing by the gallon, what’s the deal with hating on anchovies? It’s plain malarkey.
The recipe for this dressing is a riff off a version from Food and Wine Magazine used to dress a chicken salad. My husband took a look at the picture and said, “This would be great without all of that other mess around it.” “So you mean just the dressing?” “Yeah, pretty much.” After a few tweaks to the recipe and a bed of greens, we were cooking with gas.
So where does a nostalgic dressing trip down memory lane take us. To a salad with just as much historical presence. 1930 at the Hollywood Brown Derby heralded the chefery of Robert Cobb and Chuck Wilson – apparently the owner Cobb wandered around the kitchen looking for something awesome to eat and threw together a crazy amalgamation of greens, bacon, eggs, avocado and blue cheese. I can appreciate a late-night scrounge for munchies, if I do say so myself.
In plating this salad, I love a careful presentation of each ingredient segmented into its own section. Something about the vibrant colors in their own spots just waiting to be mixed together with the lovely dressing is an impressor and a half. As you know, it’s all about the presentation…says the designer.
California Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
1/2 c. of parsley leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c. of basil leaves
1/4 c. of chopped dill
4 sprigs of tarragon, leaves removed and chopped
1 sprig of oregano, leaves removed and chopped
1 c. of mayonnaise
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
1/4 c. of chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
mixed greens (baby romaine is fun)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 perfectly hard-boiled eggs, diced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 avocado, diced
1/2 c. of crumbled blue cheese
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, halved lengthwise into two cutlets
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of herbes des provence
Begin by making the dressing – add all of the herbs except for the chives to the food processor, along with the garlic, lemon zest and juice. Blitz until finely chopped and then add the mayo. Blitz again to blend and then remove to a bowl. Stir in the chives and then season with salt and pepper. Chill.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. While that warms, season the chicken with the herbes des provence and salt and pepper. Sear the chicken until it is cooked through and browned on both sides. Remove from pan and let cool slightly. Cube chicken and set aside.
Grab a large platter and make a bed of greens. Arrange the tomatoes, chopped eggs, chopped bacon, avocado, blue cheese and chicken in a pretty splay. Right before serving, toss the salad and top with the Green Goddess dressing. Tuck in and get down.
*in my best Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls voice* Picture this, Tuscany 1952, you’re in need of a dish to feed your family and all you’ve got is the minestrone from last night, some stale bread and an old prosciutto bone lying around. What do you do? Make only the most delicious soup imaginable, quite possibly better than that minestrone from the night before.
But seriously, kids, how lovely is it when a great plan comes together. A few pantry ingredients, maybe even some leftovers and a bit of time putzing around the kitchen and voila! Gorgeousness on a plate, or in this case, a bowl. The name itself gives it away with this one – ribollita is Italian for reboiled. Any glamour and cache that this soup might garner from its placement on modern Italian menus is only a recent distinction – the dish has the humble origins of true peasant food. Just as in Brazil, a pot of black beans can be extended for additional eaters with some water and a little more rice, this soup is extended by day-old bread soaking up the rich vegetable broth. A smidge of good quality cheese (which you regular readers know that, for me, is a smattering of locatelli) and you are in like flynn.
There are much fancier versions than this one, but I love this recipe because it’s a weekday charmer. No prosciutto bone here, and a parmesan rind only if you have one around. Black kale (cavolo nero or dinosaur kale) is the star of the show, but can be replaced by any kale or bitter greens you can find. Canned beans and pantry chicken stock speed along the process, and by dicing everything in the food processor saves a hell of a lot of time. In addition, if you leave out the bacon and chicken stock, you’ve got a comforting vegetarian supper on your hands. No cheese and it’s vegan. A warm bowl of love for all sorts of eaters? It doesn’t get any better than that.
2 qts. of stock
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of black kale, ribbed and roughly chopped
1 can of canellini beans
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
sprig of rosemary
sprig of thyme
parmesan rind (optional)
2 tbs. of olive oil
3 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
slices of old, stale bread or toasted ciabatta
Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven on high and add your olive oil. Once it begins to shimmer, toss in your bacon and allow it to crisp up a bit. Add your onions and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook until fragrant. Add your tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and stir to warm through. Lastly, add the stock, parmesan rind and cannelini beans. Allow stock to come to a boil and fold in the black kale. Cook until kale is tender over medium-high heat, about 15-20 minutes.
To serve, place a few slices of ciabatta (or hunks of old bread) on the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle hot soup over the bread and top with grated parmesan.
Real men don’t eat quiche? Garbage. Since when do men not like bacon, eggs and cheese in portable form? Quiche Lorraine is the ultimate symbol of breakfast majesty – it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night trips to the fridge when you want a bite of a little something savory. I’m all for serving this quiche with a plate of mixed greens (maybe in some Tarragon Lemon dressing?) but in actuality, I end up eating it still in the kitchen over the pan after it’s cooled to room temperature. I’ll pass on standing on ceremony – if it’s good, I’m tucking in.
This quiche recipe is incredibly versatile – if you’re so inclined, replace the 1 1/2 c. of ham with whatever filling you’d like. For you vegetarian lovelies out there, try mushrooms, spinach, swiss chard, shallots – anything you put in an omlette can go in a quiche. In fact, for a vegetarian delight, try my Green and Gold Quiche, a tasty blend of mushrooms, spinach, shallots and sharp white cheddar. It’s not at all traditional, but equally grubworthy as this Quiche Lorraine. Continue reading Quiche Lorraine
Love is Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
I come from a long line of women who cook with such confidence, it borders on defiance in following a recipe. I can’t say that I don’t follow recipes, as I most certainly do. But I have to admit that my favorite times in the kitchen are those when I am cooking the dishes that I know so intrinsically, using the recipe would only cause me to second guess myself. This dish, a comforting amalgamation of fatty bacon and oozy eggs and cheese, is one I always love the best when made without a recipe. I just know it’s going to be good by the feel of working with the ingredients that are in front of me.
Carbonara, for me, isn’t determined by the standard laundry list of ingredients (pasta, eggs, pancetta, parmasean, and a healthy dose of black pepper) so much as the proportions. I like mine as gloriously lux as possible – comfort food at its finest – which means that I’ll be a bit of an ingredient snob in order to get it just right. Ironically enough, this dish still manages to be one that I seem to be able to make at any time – I always have the ingredients lying around the fridge. Maybe that’s the appeal – so easy to make, but insanely full of panache and class. All cooking should have results such as these. Continue reading Pasta Carbonara