Archive for September 2011

A 15 Minute Meal

September 30th, 2011 — 4:20pm
penne pasta in a roma tomato sauce

Penne Pasta in a Roma Tomato Sauce

Sometimes a recipe is so simple you wonder how you missed it all these years. It is not that I like complications in my life. But something cooked that comes together in less than 15 minutes and tastes really good is hard to find. So this week the grocery store had Roma tomatoes on sale

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for 39 cents per pound. Needless to say I picked up a lot of them. Usually we go through quite a few in a matter of days. But this abundance of tomatoes needed some other alternatives. I decided to make a simple tomato sauce.

I have been watching David Rocco on his show “David Rocco’s Dole Vita” and I notice that so many of his recipes require very few ingredients and very little cooking time. Of course when you live in Italy and have access to all the freshest ingredients I am sure it makes this possible. But if David Rocco can do it with Italian tomatoes then I was going to do the same thing with my Roma tomatoes.

roma tomato sauce

Roma Tomato Sauce

The recipes was simple. You saute a bit of onion, followed by a bit of garlic. You add sliced fresh Roma tomatoes to fill the pan. To this you add about 12 to 15 fresh basil leaves. You let the whole thing saute for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are falling apart. You finish with a bit of salt and pepper, add some pasta water, add some pasta, toss, and you are done.

The sauce was almost refreshing. I know this is a term not used with tomatoes very often. There was a delicate tomato flavor with a bit of basil which also collided with a bit or parmigiano reggiano. It was probably the most satisfying 15 minute meal I have ever had.

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U is for Udon Noodle

September 12th, 2011 — 8:00am
udon noodle salad

Udon Noodle Salad

We are lucky here in North Texas to have a very large Asian population, with a large portion being of Vietnamese descent. They are very entrepreneurial and have opened up a variety of markets emphasizing Asian cuisine which opens up a variety of new cooking options. These markets tend to stock hard-to-find ingredients from all over Asia including a remarkable variety of noodles and other starchy products. It is also a handy place to pick up vegetables and spices.

With such a variety we have been able to experiment a bit. One of my favorite noodles, which will fill in the blank for the letter U, is a Japanese wheat noodle which goes by the name udon. It is an incredibly starchy noodle that cooks up very quickly when compared to Italian varieties of pasta. But much like the pastas the udon noodle offers you a bit of a blank slate to create interesting dishes. In this case I made an udon noodle salad, garnished with a bit of leftover duck. You can serve it with or without the extra protein. The ingredients in the salad make it stand on its own without any accompanying meat.

While the udon noodles are a bit expensive at $2.50 for about 8 ounces (at least the authentic variety that are packaged in Japan as if you were going to give them away as a gift), the extra expense is worth the trouble. I also recommend this dish even if you cannot find some of the Asian greens like bok choy. Spinach, arugula, and any other variety of bitter greens would work well in the recipe. The sauce ingredients give this salad its Asian influence with or without the Asian vegetables.

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D is for Duck

September 10th, 2011 — 7:35am
Duck a l'Orange

Duck a l'Orange

I tend not to be one who cooks many of Julia Child’s recipes. Her adherence to detail often requires a lot of time and ingredients not commonly found in the pantry (eg duck fat or duck stock). Which is certainly not a criticism. It is just that with a busy schedule it is hard to justify coming up with certain ingredients that even specialty stores would have a hard time stocking.

In my search for

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a recipe beginning with the letter D, duck in some form was the easiest choice. The issue then became how could I keep it a simple as possible without being bland. Surprisingly Julia Child came to the rescue with “Caneton a l’Orange” or the anglicized version “Duck a l’Orange.” It is simply a roast duck with the main player being a very rich and savory orange sauce.

Admittedly I did not have all of the ingredients in my pantry. So my recipe is a more approachable version for the everyday cook. Chicken stock replaced duck stock. To make up for the loss of duck I added a bit of the duck fat to the stock which seemed to add to the intensity. I also thought port wine would have made it all too sweet so I substituted a dry sherry. It gave the sauce the same intensity without all the sweetness. And I found that two tablespoons of orange liqueur were enough instead of her recommended three.

Taking advantage of an ingredient I rarely have, duck fat, I made the rosemary potatoes using it. I now know why fried potatoes taste so different in France. With such a high smoke point the potatoes can be cooked at a higher temperature yielding a crispy exterior with a very creamy interior. All in all it was a very tasty evening.

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J is for Jambalaya

September 8th, 2011 — 8:29am
jambalaya recipe


One of my more endearing compulsions is to have things organized. Everything neat, tidy, and in its place. This also refers to filling in holes when things are missing. In this case the lonely letters of the alphabet that have no recipes attached to them. The letters are D, J, U, X and Y. The blank next to the letter D surprised me a bit. Although when I did some research there are not a lot of recipes out there beginning with the letter D. U, X, and Y were obvious candidates for lonely letters. And today we will dispose of the letter J in good order. J is obviously for jambalaya.

I was wondering why I have never made jambalaya when I realized it is strikingly similar to my gumbo recipe although with a lot more rice and a lot less liquid. In fact the recipes are so similar I pretty much just adjusted the quantity of ingredients from my gumbo recipe to adapt to the jambalaya. Which largely leads to the same flavors. The textures are significantly different. The other difference is that the jambalaya cooks up in less than 30 minutes and the gumbo takes closer to an hour. No matter really. Both recipes are great. I guess it just depends on how much rice you want with your sausage, chicken, and shrimp.

Little Roo Merlot

As an aside, and not to take away the show from jambalaya, we have been enjoying a very inexpensive wine from the Little Roo Vineyards in Australia. They produce a variety of inexpensive wines with the shiraz and the merlot being very drinkable for about $5 per bottle. It is not every day you can indulge in one of you favorite pastimes for under $5. In this case we enjoyed the merlot while dining al fresco in the coolish September air.

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