Monday, November 27, 2006

Pasta e Fagioli

Found in The Nest, Holiday 2006 issue, from Giada de Laurentiis

Geoff and I tried this one tonight, and it's excellent. Smells really wonderful, too.

4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 T olive oil
1 t unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
5-3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 14-oz cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1. Wrap thyme, rosemany, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with kitchen twine. (We didn't have twine, so we knotted the cheesecloth.)

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy saucepan (we used a 5-qt pot, and it worked well) over a medium flame. Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic, and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the sachet.

3. In a blender, puree 1 cup of the bean mixture until smooth, then return the puree to the saucepan. Cover and return the soup to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni, cover, and boil, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. (We mis-read the recipe and added about 3 oz of macaroni, probably closer to 1 or 1-1/2 cups. Still turned out fine.)

4. Season the soup with pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. (We left out the olive oil here, but you better believe we piled on the Parmesan.)

Recipe says it serves 6. In our house, it's probably closer to 4.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pretzel-crusted chicken breasts, with cheddar-mustard sauce

Got this from Rachael Ray, 365: No Repeats

I can't believe I haven't posted this one already.

4 quart-size ziploc bags
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 5-oz bag of salted pretzels, any shape
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
vegetable oil, for frying
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
1 cup grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 heaping tablespoons spicy brown mustard
salt
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (generous handful), chopped
1/4 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large sour dill pickle, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Sprinkle a little water in the baggies. Place 1 chicken breast in each bag and seal it up, pushing out excess air. Use a mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan and pound each breast until flat, just shy of busting out of the bag. Repeat with the other 3 chicken breasts.

Place the pretzels in a food processor or blender and grind until fine. (I crush mine with a rolling pin.) Transfer the ground pretzels to a shallow dish and add the thyme and some pepper. Crack and beat 2 eggs in a second shallow dish with a splash of water. Working with 1 pounded chicken breast at a time, coat the breast in the ground pretzels, then in the eggs, then in the pretzels again. Preheat a large skillet with ¼ inch of vegetable oil; add the pretzel-coated chicken breasts to the hot oil. Cook in a single layer, in 2 batches if necessary, about 3-4 minutes on each side, until the cutlets’ juices run clear and the breading is evenly browned.

While the chicken is frying, in a medium sauce pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheeses and mustard with a wooden spoon. Season with a little salt and pepper and remove the cheese sauce from the heat.

Transfer the fried pretzel-crusted chicken breasts to serving plates, drizzle with the cheddar-mustard sauce, and then sprinkle with a little parsley, finely chopped onions, and finely chopped pickles. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges alongside.

*Notes: 1) The sauce is really the best part of this recipe. We use the leftovers as a pretzel/chip dip. 2) In our house, we completely skip the garnish of parsley, onion, pickle, and lemon. It’s still good without it.

Pomegranate Soup

I found an article on NPR.org that talked about pomegranates. At the bottom of the post were three recipes, including one for pomegranate soup. We made it last night, and it turned out really well. Geoff made several remarks about how good it was, and we're likely to make it again before they go out of season in January.

A word to the wise: As the article says, pomegranates are a "labor-intensive fruit." It takes a little time to get the seeds out of the darned thing, but the reward is worth it. Look to the sidebar for hints on how to seed it without too much of a mess.

Here's the link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6411097

FYI: We seeded two pomegranates, and got about 2 cups of seeds. We still have some leftover, after making the soup. I think Geoff is going to put them on his salads this week.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blackberry cake

I've got a ton of blackberries in the freezer from when Becky, Geoff and I went picking this summer. Determined to do something with them, I set out today to find a recipe.
Instead of reprinting the recipe here, I'm just going to link to it, and send you all to this fantastic food blog.
The cake smells really good (I haven't eaten it yet), and it was easy to make, entirely with ingredients I already had in the house. Super quick, and if it tastes as good as it looks, I'll be making this a lot more. I think it'd probably also work with blueberries, if you've got them. Maybe even raspberries.