Friday, April 30, 2010

Orecchiette with Mushrooms, Fava Beans, and Spinach

This weather has been such a tease.  Two weeks ago, I thought it was spring.  But since then, we've seen lots of clouds.  And rain.  And wind.  And today it's frickin summer.  So I'm here now to do my part in willing spring to come.  You'll see.  By sheer force of will (and some orecchiette), spring will come.  By June.  I guarantee it.

Anyhow.  On to the food.  This week, like every other week, we got BOMB stuff from our CSA.  Mushrooms!  Spinach!  Fresh fava beans!!  I was in fresh spring veggie heaven.  Fava beans are actually a pain in the butt to peel, but oh man is it worth it.  Man oh man.  And fresh fava beans are a rare opportunity, so I took advantage of them as soon as I got home.  (Does that sound dirty?)

Moving on.

This dish is so springy.  And the spring I'm talking about isn't the rainy, windy, cloudy spring that we've been experiencing here.  It's not sweltering either.  It's the cherry blossomed, rooftop grilling, bike riding (!!!!) spring that we've been looking forward to since fall ended last year.  Why wouldn't spring want to visit us when we're cooking up a dish like this?

Spring?  Are you there?

Orecchiette with Mushrooms, Fava Beans, and Spinach

1/2 pound orecchiette
1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and trimmed
1 pound fava beans, seeds removed from pods and pods discarded
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the fava beans, boil a pot of water.  Blanch the beans, drain, and rinse with cool water.  Carefully slip the skins off the beans and discard the skins, setting the beans aside.

Cook pasta according to instructions on package.  Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add olive oil.  Add mushrooms and cook until tender, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat a bit more olive oil in pan and add the spinach and fava beans.  Season with a bit of salt.  Cook until spinach leaves are wilted and fava beans are just tender.  Add the mushrooms and pasta to the pan and toss together.  Check for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

PB Noodles

Peanut butter noodles are my ultimate comfort food.  My cousin taught me how to make them when I was little and I've been making them ever since.  They taste like home to me.  It's a very simple, simple dish, and I always have the ingredients for it in my pantry.  I prefer peanut butter noodles on their own, nice and simple, but they'd be great with some ground pork, julienned cucumber, scrambled egg, and scallions.

Lately, I haven't had much time to cook.  Usually when this happens, I'll eat instant noodles for dinner, or order out.  Therein lies the beauty of this dish -- it's almost as easy to make as it is to pick up the phone and dial.  Peanut butter noodles (not to be confused with sesame noodles -- more on that in a later post) are just noodles with peanut sauce.  They are best made with Chinese noodles, but spaghetti or angel hair will do just fine; the idea here is that you use what you have in your cabinet.  So the next time you need dinner in a flash, consider whipping up some delicious PB noodles -- it'll only take a second!

Peanut Butter Noodles

8 oz noodles
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Cook noodles according to instructions on package.  When noodles are cooked through, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain, and set aside.  Combine peanut butter, 1/4 cup pasta water, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Stir until smooth; if the sauce is too thick, add more water to thin it out.  Combine noodles and sauce.  Then... eat!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Ever dream of a meal made entirely out of bacon?  I have.  I'm not talking about the bacon explosion that hit kitchens a while ago.  I'm talking about gourmet, fatty, creatively cooked bacon.  Well, this past Saturday, at Chicago's very own Baconfest 2010, I experienced a dream.

Now, you might be thinking, this girl dreams an awful lot about food, particularly meat.  Well, it's true!  What can I say?  I'm a live to eat kind of girl, I'd rather go to a food festival than a concert (well, depends on who's playing, but that's another story), and I'm always reading up on the latest in food, how to cook it, and where it comes from.  So it really shouldn't come as a surprise that, when I came across Baconfest (posted about on Serious Eats, if I recall), I decided that I had to go.  I enlisted a fellow bacon-lover, and we embarked on our bacon-filled journey.

It all started on Saturday morning.  We drove to Chicago from Ohio, so we had to wake up extra early in order to make it there for the 11AM shift.  When we finally arrived at Baconfest, held at the Stan Mansion in Logan Square, we were greeted by a friendly Baconfest staff member, who asked us to please get in line and to smell the bacon cooking.  Of course, we obliged, and waited patiently as we inched closer to our bacon-filled destiny.

Once inside the venue, we were given a menu and several drink tickets.  We headed up to the second floor, where we encountered a bacon-filled bar.  Drinks included bacon bloody marys (complete with a whole slice of bacon), bacon infused whisky, bacon chocolate martinis, and bacon infused vodka (vegan and all natural, who would've known?).  We grabbed a drink and followed the smell of bacon over to the food room.

Here's what we found:

Bacon Fat Buckwheat Shortbread, House Pecan Wood-Smoked Bacon, Passionfruit and Apricot Conserves, and Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon Pralines

Canadian Bacon Gnocchi with Morel Mushrooms and Artichoke Sauce

Brochette de Moules a la Toulonnaise, A Prevencal-Style Brochette of Mussels, Bacon, and Spring Onion served with Oregano, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Lemon

Bacon Blueberry Corncakes with Bourbon Brown Sugar Syrup and Sweet Cream

Bacon Waffle with Brown Sugar Bacon Ice Cream and garnished with Candied Dehydrated Bacon

BLT-style Pork Belly Sandwich with Honey-Ancho Glazed Bacon and a Lettuce, Avocado, and Piquillo Salsa

Triple Bacon Veal Meatballs and Asparagus with a Lemon Thyme Bacon Sugo

Neuske's Cherrywood Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Ewe's Blue Cheese

Candied Bacon Tea Cookies and Vacuum Oven Pad Thai Bacon

Jaggery Cured Compart Duroc Bacon with Roasted Cashew Upma and Green Chili Upma, Mustard Greens and Pickled Bacon

Chicken-Fried Cherrywood Smoked Bacon with Cherry Ketchup and Homemade Pickle on a Miniature Brioche Bun

Bacon Corn Dogs with Bacon Maple Mustard

Downstairs, vendors were set up with all kinds of bacon products and paraphernalia, which included lots of chocolate covered bacon, baconnaise (sorry, but even I can't stomach that kind of bacon-ness), and bacon cupcakes.

My favorites by far were the chicken-fried bacon (uhhh, whaaat?? breaded, deep fried bacon??? heart attack??) and the Pad Thai bacon.  Needless to say, we were stuffed after all of this bacon, and a bacon-induced coma soon followed.  And you know what?  I was so overloaded with bacon, to the point where I didn't really want to see or smell any bacon for a very long time.  Of course, that lasted only about 5 hours.

Bacon, hopefully you will always be in my life, in all your delicious forms!  To bacon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto with Roasted Asparagus

Winter to me means root vegetables, winter greens, and squash.  Lots and lots of squash.  Squash is what I look forward to most when summer ends and fall is just around the corner.  Sadly, squash season is leaving us... but not to worry, we have many spring vegetables to look forward to!

So, dear squash, I bid you farewell with this meal.  To me, the warmth of the dish, the addition of the squash, the golden yellow color, and the crisp asparagus fit just perfectly between winter and summer.

Welcome, Spring!*

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 cup arborio rice
1 quart vegetable stock
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree (mine came from my CSA; make your own by roasting butternut squash, then throwing it in a food processor)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot, heat the stock over medium heat and keep at a simmer.  Keep a ladle nearby.  Meanwhile, heat a bit of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add a bit of salt to taste.  Add dry rice to the pan, sauteing until rice is translucent, just a couple minutes.  Add white wine and stir.  Add some salt for good measure.

When liquid has been absorbed, ladle about 3/4 cup of stock into the pan.  Stir until absorbed, and continue to add liquid in this manner.  When stock is almost gone and the rice is almost cooked through, add the butternut squash puree.  Stir well to combine.  Now would be a good time to add the parmesan cheese.  Check to make sure the risotto is properly seasoned; add some salt if you so desire.  Once all the good stuff has been added, continue to add the stock, still just a ladle-full at a time, until all of it has been absorbed.  If the stock is gone and the rice is not cooked through, well, just add some water until it is.

Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 10-15 minutes (it really depends on the thickness of your asparagus) until tender and lightly browned.

*Ok, I know I'm a bit late in welcoming spring.  It's just that I didn't want to get my hopes up just to have this crazy east coast weather of ours disappoint me.  With the 70 degree weather in New York this week, well, I think I can officially say now that spring has indeed arrived!