Creamy Orzo with Pancetta

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I buried this fantastic recipe along with another fantastic recipe (Gobble Gobble Turkey Meatballs) some time ago.  Creamy Orzo with Pancetta should stand alone as a recipe. I made this last night with breaded chicken tenders and fell in love again. As usual, when I find a new recipe, I make it a lot, and then not at all.  It’s been a while but I think it will make the rounds again. My son is excited to have those leftovers tonight. It’s a simple recipe that you can play with. If you love pancetta, add more. If you love onions, use two! It also doubles really well. To give the orzo some color and a toasty flavor, you brown the uncooked orzo. I had never done this before and it is a game changer. The pancetta is sold already diced. It’s usually near the deli counter.

¼ cup (or so) diced pancetta

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 ½ cups of orzo (uncooked)

2 ½ cups chicken broth

½ frozen  petite peas

½ grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

In a braiser or a shallow pot, melt the butter or heat the olive oil, under a medium heat.  Add your onion and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Sauté the onions until they soften. Add the pancetta and stir. I like to cook the onions and pancetta for about 5 minutes. It may take longer. You want everything to soften.

Add uncooked orzo to pan with onions and pancetta. Stir the mixture. The orzo will “toast”. Keep stirring. It will only take about a minute for the orzo to get some color. If it starts to stick, add a little more olive oil.

Add the garlic. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Let it come to a boil. Put the lid on and lower the heat. Stir occasionally. You want it to simmer for 20 minutes. The orzo will absorb most of the liquid and fluff up.

Take pan off  the heat and add the parmesan. Stir. The dish gets creamy with the parmesan. The orzo may stick to the pan, but don’t worry. Add the frozen peas, and put the lid back on. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Take the lid off and stir. The orzo should not be sticking to the pan. Season to taste. Stir and serve! I like to serve this with a variety of chicken dishes. It makes a great lunch with some chopped cooked chicken. It heats up in the microwave like a champ!

This is simple, delicious and just a tad different from anything you’ve probably ever made. Try it. You’ll like it! Serves 4 (maybe!!)

Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

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I am late to this dance, but at least I’m dancing. Cauliflower. Love the stuff. I never would have thought of substituting it for rice. How are people this creative? Now, you will notice it’s not rice. Trust me. It is still delicious and nutritious. You can grate it yourself. I love my box grater, but I love my knuckles more, so I buy mine frozen at Trader Joe’s. Look at the ingredients. If you don’t like sesame oil or soy sauce, or even cauliflower, don’t make this. If you like these ingredients, do try it. I like to make it on Sunday and have it for quick and tasty lunches during the week. If you have an extra protein like leftover chicken, add it in at the end. I’ve adjusted the recipe a bit because, I never want to use ½ an onion or to count out 5 scallions. What will you do with the rest of these ingredients? Rotting in the fridge is their future. I didn’t have frozen carrots and peas so I used mixed frozen veggies. Still delicious! I substituted garlic powder for garlic. Garlic sometimes can taste bitter, as can cauliflower. This adds flavor without the bitterness.

1 package frozen rice cauliflower

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1tsp.vegetable or canola oil

3 large eggs

pinch of salt

1 large onion

¾ cup frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables

2 tsp. garlic powder

bunch of scallions, diced

3 tbsp. soy sauce

 

Scramble the eggs, with a fork, in a bowl and set aside. Dice up your onion and place in a bowl. Measure out your frozen vegetables and put in a bowl with the diced scallions.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan. You want your pan hot before you add the vegetable oil. If you sprinkle water over the hot pan, and the water rolls around and evaporates, the pan is hot. Pour a teaspoon of oil in the pan and cook the eggs. Stir them with a heat-proof spatula. They can be a little “wet”. Put them back into the dish. This is okay, because they will be cooked more at the end.

Add the sesame oil to the hot pan. You may need some vegetable oil too. Add the onions and let them soften for a couple of minutes. I sprinkle a pinch of salt over mine to help sweat out the water. Add the frozen vegetables, scallions and garlic powder. Stir this mixture as it heats up. Depending on what vegetables you are using this could take 5 minutes. You want everything to heat up and soften.

Raise the heat to medium high. Add the frozen cauliflower to the pan and the soy sauce. Stir frequently. You want to cook the cauliflower. The frozen cauliflower will cool off the pan, so it will take about 5-10 minutes to cook. When the cauliflower is cooked, add the eggs back in and stir. After a minute, shut off the heat and let it cool in the pan.

You should taste this mixture. I used low-salt soy sauce and found I needed to add a pinch more at the end. You may want to add more soy sauce. Whatever you want, you can add.

I love to add sweet chili sauce before I eat this. Gives it a little sweetness to the salty flavor of soy, and the slight bitterness of cauliflower. Try it. It’s sooooo delicious. Just a few drops! Happy lunching!

Here’s the original recipe which clearly is more skinny than mine!

 

Roasted Chicken Provencal on rice….that’s nice!

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Bless the New York Times Food Section. There are so many recipes that are simple and delicious. Recipes that don’t call for bizarre ingredients that you will NEVER use again. Recipes that don’t require odd pans that will collect dust from lack of use. This is one of those recipes. I start judging a recipe by the individual ingredients. Do I like the ingredient flavors on their own? This has lemon, garlic and shallots with vermouth. Yes. Yes. Yes…..and YES! Then I look at the cooking method. You put the ingredients in a pan and roast them. No browning. You can do this! Now I won’t lie; it takes about 1 ½ hours from start to devour. It takes a bit to assemble, but none of the steps are difficult.  Let’s cook.

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

½ cup of all-purpose flour

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. herbes de Provence

2 lemons, quartered

10 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole

6 medium –size shallots, peeled and halved

2/3 cup dry vermouth or white wine

 

Step 1

Heat oven to 400 degrees. It’s important to make sure your oven is really this temperature. I always use an oven thermometer. You need this heat to crisp up the chicken skins. So, oven temperature. Check. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow pan or bowl. Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour, on both sides. Shake off the excess flour.

Step 2

Swirl the oil in a large roasting pan, and place the floured chicken in it. I didn’t measure the oil. I eyeballed it. Season the chicken with the herbes de Provence. Arrange the lemon, garlic cloves and shallots around the chicken. Tuck them here. Tuck them there. Tuck them, tuck them everywhere. Add the vermouth to the pan. Step back. Just imagine how this will smell in a short time.

Step 3

Put the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Baste it with the pan juices. If you find there isn’t much pan juice, add a little more vermouth or chicken stock. You want the pan juices to go half-way up the chicken. You don’t want it submerged, but immersed. The skins need to be dry to crisp up. Continue roasting for another 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is very crisp and the meat cooked through.

Step 4

Serve in this on a bed of rice with a side of salad. Eat it slowly and enjoy the mellowed, softened flavors of garlic, shallots and lemons. So easy. So delicious! Enjoy!

 

Here’s the original recipe.

 

Simple and Classic – French Vanilla Sables

 

Last weekend I spent one day visiting my ‘rents and another visiting my MIL. I came bearing food and treats. I thought the applesauce bread would be the hit, but the French Vanilla Sables were the winner. Sables are a classic French shortbread cookie, rich and sandy. This is a recipe I found in Dorie Greenspan’s “Dorie’s Cookies”. She spoke at a local indie book store. She’s a delightful pixie of a person. She shared some great stories, tips and cookies! My favorite tip is to roll out the dough on parchment paper and THEN put it into the fridge or freezer. I’ve always struggled pounding the hardened dough, to roll it out. This makes perfect sense ! Chill the dough and then cut out your cookies. You can freeze them after you bake, in case you need help with your self-control!

 

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

½ tsp. fine sea salt

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

 

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and the salt on medium speed for about 3 minutes. If you have a stand mixer, use it. Three minutes can seem like an eternity.  The mixture should be smooth but not fluffy.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and, one by one, beat in the yolks, followed by the vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add the flour all at once and turn the mixer to the lowest speed. You don’t want flour flying throughout your kitchen! Mix just until the flour disappears into the dough. Give the dough a couple of turns with a spatula.  That’s it!

Turn the dough out on the counter and divide it in half. If you are going to roll out the dough, form the dough into two discs. Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper to about ¼ inch thick. Slide the parchment-sandwiched-dough onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least an hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the rolled dough.  A simple circle or rectangle is perfect. Don’t use anything too detailed. The dough won’t hold a complicated shape. Press sparkling sugar onto the tops prior to baking for a fun crunch. Start checking the cookies after 10 minutes. You want them slightly browned on the bottom.

If you don’t want to cut out cookies, you can form the dough into 9 inch logs. Wrap them and freeze for 3 hours, and up to 2 months.  I use the parchment to help me roll the cookies. They don’t have to be perfectly round.When you are ready to bake, slice the logs about 1/3 inch thick.  I eyeball the thickness.  Again, press some sparkling sugar onto the tops. Bake one sheet at a time on the center rack of a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Check the bottom of a cookie. It should be slightly browned. It could take more or less depending on the thickness.

Every oven has hot spots. So, to prevent (I hope) uneven cooking, I like to turn the baking sheets around halfway through the cooking process. You want the cookies baked evenly. Sometime one side of the sheet can brown quicker than the other. I set the timer and then turn. Reset the timer. I also bake all my cookies on parchment. When they are done, I slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto my counter or a rack to cool.
These are perfect with that wintry afternoon cup of tea. Enjoy!

Auntie Julie’s Cheese Cake

 

This has been a family favorite for some time. It’s not really Auntie Julie’s own recipe, but one which stole our souls. It’s not a holiday or a special day in my house without this cheese cake. I just made it as an “extra” for my daughter’s birthday. I bought a fantastic chocolate cake that tasted like a Hostess Cupcake. It brought back childhood memories of eating them at a friend’s home. She came to my house for milk that wasn’t powdered. I went to her house for Hostess products. It seemed fair to me. I thought most people would want the chocolate cake. I was wrong. More wanted the cheese cake. Yet somehow the chocolate cake is gone…..

This cheesecake is pretty simple. The only special thing you need is a spring form pan. The trick is to let the cream cheese come to room temperature, just like the eggs. I mash the cream cheese with a fork and let it sit for about a half an hour. Don’t skimp and use low-fat or no-fat ingredients. It’s cheese cake for goodness sake. Celebrate something!

Crust

¾ cup fine graham cracker crumbs

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. sugar

Blend well with a spoon. Press into bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan. I used the measuring cup to press down the crumbs. I buy the graham cracker crumbs already crumbed. If I buy a box of graham crackers, you can find me by following the trail of crumbs.

Filling

24 ounces cream cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

Cream the cream cheese well. Slowly beat in 1 cup of sugar. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each additional egg. Add 1 tsp. vanilla. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. It may need longer. The sides will look firm. Touch the center with your finger. It should feel somewhat firm. If it cracks, that’s ok. It will be covered up with the sour cream topping. Remove the pan from the oven and raise temperature of over to 500 degrees..
Topping

2 cups sour cream

3 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together while oven is heating up. I like to wait until right before I put the cheese cake in the oven before I add the topping. The cake may fall a little. It’s ok. More room for the topping. Spread the topping on cheese cake and cook for about 5 minutes. I usually set my oven to 450 degrees. I can’t reach the smoke detector myself, so I avoid higher temperatures. Just cook it for an extra 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and let the cheese cake cool on a cooling rack. Never put anything hot into a refrigerator. Once it is just warm to touch, put in the fridge. I like to make this in the morning and serve at night. It really needs to chill. When I am ready to serve, I unclasp the sides and put it on a cake stand. Seems more elegant that way. You can also see who is trying to swipe a finger-full.

If you are adventurous, a raspberry coulis is the perfect addition.

Enjoy!

I roast to you!

It’s Soup Saturday in my house. If you’re looking for something different, but not too adventurous, you need to try this soup. It’s so easy and delicious. You don’t even need to put any dairy in this soup. The roasted parsnips add a sweetness, and the cumin adds some spice. Don’t tell anyone there is cauliflower in it. They will never guess! Enjoy!

Knosh and Knit: the world according to Nora

                               Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, I make a lot of soup.  Soup is good. Most of my soups are tomato based and often include lentils, spinach, different spices and some kind of sausage. I’ve been looking to make something different and healthier. I have read various recipes that used roasted cauliflower, but they relied on too many spices. I found one recipe that used roasted cauliflower and roasted parsnips. Pure magic. I adapted the recipe so that the sweetness of the parsnips would be the dominant flavor. Instead of roasting the spices with the vegetables, I added them later into the chicken stock. Instead of roasting the onions, I sautéed them in olive oil. My new friend, the Immersion Blender, made sure the soup was creamy.

1 head of…

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Apple Pie with Crumb topping

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Apple Pie with Crumb topping

It’s snowing here in New England. You know what that means? An early trip to the grocery store.  I beat the crowds (it’s a sport here) and planned my baking day as I wandered. By noon I had already made giant blueberry muffins and an apple pie. APPLE PIE! Nothing makes the house smell so delightful. Such comfort food! I prefer an apple pie with crumb topping. More cinnamon and sugar for the win!! I have no magical pie crust recipe. I’m just not good at making pie crust…..butter? Crisco? Ugh. So, you can use your own recipe or cheat like me and buy a crust. Yup. I’ll say a few Hail Marys for my soul, but the crust is the just vessel of sweet cinnamon and cooked apples into my mouth. I’m not embarrassed. (Maybe just a little). I do make a great crust for apple galette that does not work well as a pie.

The secret to the crumb topping is to make it before you peel the apples and then let it sit in the fridge to harden. This technique makes it easier to sprinkle over the ready-for-oven pie.

5 Granny Smith apples

1 tablespoon all-purpose King Arthur flour, any brand will do

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Crumb Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup cold butter

1-9 inch Pyrex pie plate

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the topping by mixing flour, sugar and cinnamon is large bowl. Add cold butter that’s been cut up in small pieces. I like to use a pastry cutter, but you can use a food processor, a fork or even your hands. Make sure it is all mixed. Place in fridge to harden a bit.

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Peel your apples. I like to do them in one spiral piece. It’s just something I like to do. There is more than one way to peel an apple. Next you will need to core your apples. If you don’t have an apple corer, just slice around the core. I cut the apples in half and then make 6 slices from each half. If the apple slices are too thick, the pie will take too long to cook. Just a helpful hint. When I was coring my apples, I pushed a core through my finger. It got stuck. I panicked. Then I realized this isn’t like the wrought iron rails on my parents front steps that I got my head stuck in….I mean my friend’s head…..I could eat my way out of this. How often can you say that?

Once peeled and sliced, I put the apples in a big bowl. If you don’t have a bowl big enough, you can use a clean pot. If you don’t have a pot big enough, just do half the apples at a time. I put a tablespoon of flour in with the apples to help thicken the juices. You don’t have to. I use about ½ cup of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon in the apples. I like to toss them using a knife. It’s tradition. You can use your impeccably clean hands instead. Then taste an apple. Very important. If the apples need more sugar or cinnamon, now’s the time to add them. I read on the internet that the French don’t use cinnamon in apple desserts. If it’s on the internet it must be true! Oui?

Now the apples are ready for the pie shell. I crimped along the top of the crust with my fingers. Not artfully, may I add. You can press it down with a fork. There’s lots of ways to prepare your crust. Most people like to just dump the apples in the pie crust. I like to place the curved back of the apples along my pie crust. I systematically place the apples around the pie crust, in several layers. This may sound excessive, but it helps prevent the pie from collapsing after you bake it. The center of the pie should have more apples than the side, like a mound. If there is any of the cinnamon/flour mixture, sprinkle it over the top of the apples.

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Now it’s time for the crumb topping. Place your pie plate on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You can also use aluminum foil. The topping will fall off and burn. You don’t want to clean that off your baking sheet! Sprinkle the crumb topping all over your pie. Have a taste or two! This recipe makes too much topping for the pie. I just haven’t done the math to reduce it. If you have any pie crust scraps, you can sprinkle this mixture over them and bake. It’s a treat for the kiddos! My mother used to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over her pie scraps. It made us all so happy.

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Bake your pie at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Check your pie by putting a sharp knife into a cooked apple. If it goes in easily, the pie is done. If not, then cook for another 5-10 minutes. Another sign of doneness is bubbling juices in the pie. That makes my heart happy. Let pie cool before serving. You can have it plain, with vanilla ice cream or even whipped cream. Enjoy!