Ham Tetrazzini

[Ham Tetrazzini]We hosted the family Christmas day gathering this year. We provided ham, popovers and egg noodles for my mom’s Swedish meatballs. At the end of the day there was ham and egg noodles leftover. So I took a page from Thanksgiving leftovers and made a tetrazzini type dish.

The butter, milk and cheese make this rich dish. Perfect for the week before New Year’s resolutions have us all eating kale-cauliflower-mango smoothies.

Ham Tetrazzini
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 10 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 sm. onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or just water if you have no broth)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle
  • 1/2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 3 cups cooked ham, cubed
  • 4 cups cooked egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until most of mushroom liquid has evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onions, and cook until the onions begin to soften; another 5 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently, to get rid of the taste of raw flour. Add the broth and stir to start the sauce. Allow to cook for about 1 minute and add milk while stirring. Stir in the chipotle, paprika, pepper and vinegar. Adjust the heat for a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
  3. Add the ham, noodles and parsley. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes to reheat the ham/noodles.
  4. While the ham/noodles reheat toast the breadcrumbs. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and use a spatula to coat the breadcrumbs in the melted butter. Heat, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are browned to your liking. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  5. To serve spoon up a generous helping in a bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs. A few grinds of fresh black pepper never hurt anyone either.

Notes:
I would normally salt the mushrooms and onions while sauteing them as it helps draw out the moisture. That said this is already going to be a salty dish with the broth (unless it is homemade), ham and Parmesan. Leaving the salt out means it’ll take a little longer to cook down the mushrooms and onions. Patience, and temperature control, are your friend.

Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce

We returned from a short vacation Friday night and Saturday was filled with all the errands except for grocery shopping. As a dinner time approached I turned to the cupboard to see what kind of thing I could cobble together.

Lentils and chickpeas provide a bit of protein in a vegetarian dish. We served it with some grated Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce
Servings: 4+
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
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Basic Polenta (or Grits)

Cooked coarse-ground corn meal, whether you call it polenta or grits, is tasty stuff. It is can be served just after cooking or allowed gel into a flavorful brick that can be grilled, pan seared or deep fried. It is infinitely alterable just be swapping out an ingredient or two.

Polenta does require supervision and a fair bit of stirring. The results are worth the effort.

Basic Polenta
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup coarse-ground cornmeal (often called corn grits or polenta)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 Tbsp. cubes
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Crush the dried thyme between your finger tips and it, along with the salt, to the water. Allow the salt to dissolve then sprinkle the cornmeal over the water, stirring frequently.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. I stir for about 10-15 seconds out of every minute for the first 15 minutes and then constantly for the last 5.
  3. Turn off the heat and add the butter, cheese, and pepper. Stir until the butter has melted and incorporated.
  4. Taste, adjust salt and pepper as desired. Serve with the savory topping of your choice (mine is often shrimp).

Notes:
Polenta solidifies fairly quickly, creating a solid that can be sliced. It can be served cold or pan-seared before serving. Coat the inside of a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and transfer the hot, cooked polenta into the pan. Press plastic wrap onto the top of the polenta to keep it from drying out and allow it to cool for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

To prep it for cooking just remove the plastic wrap, slide a knife around the edges of the polenta loaf and upturn it onto a cutting board. Slice into 1/2″-3/4″ rounds and fry in a non-stick skillet for 2-3 minutes per side.

Nutty Parsley Pesto

Don’t get hung up on the word pesto. While it traditionally made with basil and pine nuts the word can refer to any “sauce” made from a similar blending or pounding process. Words evolve, just as we now make pesto in a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle.

[Nutty Parsley Pesto]

The original recipe called for a cup of walnuts. We have a friend who is allergic to black walnuts so we don’t risk it even though supermarket walnuts rarely contain black walnuts. A mix of nuts works perfectly well, just give them a nice toasting before you add them to the food processor.

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Cauliflower and Shells

Have you ever been certain that you had some pantry staple and discover when you are pulling all the ingredients together before cooking that one is missing? Oops. The recipe I was following called for saffron, something we usually have on hand. I did not take into account the fact that my husband had been using it in focaccia however so the cupboard was bare. I looked for turmeric and that was missing as well. As I contemplated my spice options I noticed a spice blend, guessed at an amount and gave it a go. The results were well received. Guests noted a pleasant but not overpowering bit of heat. Lovely.

Cauliflower and Shells
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, florets and core cut into small, even-sized, pieces
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 16 oz. pasta shells
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In another pot, fitted with a steamer basket, steam the cauliflower for about 3 minutes. Taste – it should be toothsome with a bit of crunch left. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and set aside. Drain pot, wipe clean and return it to the stove.
  3. Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the onion with a large pinch of salt. Stir in the oil and cook until the onion softens, 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, spice blend and about 1 tablespoon of parsley. Stir to incorporate and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add the cauliflower, another large pinch of salt and combine. Add 1 cup water and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste the cauliflower; if it is done to your liking then remove from the heat and keep warm.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking you can cook your pasta in well salted water. Drain, return it to the large pot and mix in the remaining parsley.
  6. When both pasta and cauliflower are cooked combine, mix and taste for seasoning. Adjust to your taste and serve.

Notes:
If I didn’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend I’d cry. Then I’d mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 2 teaspoons of that and save the rest. Finally I’d make a trip to Penzey’s to get more of the spice blend; it is that good.

This recipe is based upon Cauliflower with Saffron and Pasta from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison as shared by The Splendid Table.

Skillet Gnocchi with Parmesan

I was roasting a chicken the other night and realized I hadn’t thought up a side to go with it when deciding to cook the chicken. I had a bit of bacon left in the fridge from another meal so I decided to fry that up. Of course bacon with chicken isn’t really a complete meal. 🙂 so I went in search of something more. After a quick pantry consultation I decided on some gnocchi. It was hot so I didn’t want to bring a whole pot of water to boil so I thought I’d give cooking it in a skillet a try. It came out great.

Skillet Gnocchi with Parmesan
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tbsp. bacon fat
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 17.5 oz. pkg. potato gnocchi
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat fat and and broth in a 12″ non-stick skillet until broth is boiling.
  2. Add gnocchi, spread into a single layer and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes; check for doneness. Continue cooking for another minute if they aren’t done.
  3. When cooked through sprinkle with red pepper flakes and grated cheese. Stir to incorporate. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes so that sauce may thicken slightly.
  4. Taste for seasoning. Add salt (sparingly) and fresh ground black pepper if desired.

Notes:
The bacon fat adds a bit of flavor to a very basic dish. Along with the chicken broth it provides all the salt needed. It can be omitted; I’d double check the seasoning if you do.

Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower

This recipe breaks down into 4 basic steps once the prep work is done – make pesto, roast cauliflower, boil pasta and combine. If you cut the cauliflower small enough it disappears a midst the pasta and pesto. That’s not a bad thing if you are feeding children or the cauliflower-phobic.
[Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower]
While I made this dish to be served hot/warm it could also work as a cold salad.

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Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas

I had fresh tortellini, asparagus and a desire to use both up in one dish. It was rainy out, my shoes were off and I really didn’t want to put them back on to go outside to pick any of the fresh herbs we have growing hither and yon. I wasn’t in the mood for tomatoes either. The following recipe is the result and I’m pretty darn happy with how it came out. Enjoy!

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas
Servings: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus however much longer it takes a pot of water to boil)
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1/8″ dice
  • 1 red pepper, julienne
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. fresh tortellini
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Directions:

  1. Fill a pot with 6 quarts of cold water and set it over high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When shimmering add the onions and peppers. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook for 5 minutes. The veggies should be slightly softened.
  3. Add the garlic, stir to incorporate and cook until fragrant; 30 seconds to a minute should do it.
  4. Hopefully the pasta water is at a boil by now. If not turn off the heat under the skillet and wait until it is. When the pasta water is ready cook the tortellini per the instructions on the package. Mine took ~12 minutes, which was enough to finish the rest of the dish.
  5. Add the asparagus, peas and veggie broth. Stir and cook, uncovered, for around 5 minutes.
  6. Add the spice blend and heavy cream. Stir to incorporate. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until sauce has reduced. Check veggies for doneness. If you are happy with the texture then turn of the heat; if not then cook a little longer.
  7. Drain the tortellini, shake off excess water and return to the large pot. Add the sauce and veggies to the large pot along with the grated cheese. Stir until sauce has coated all the pasta and the cheese if well distributed.
  8. Enjoy with a bit of freshly ground black pepper (and more cheese, of course).

Notes:
If I didn’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend I’d cry. Then I’d mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Finally I’d make a trip to Penzey’s to get more of the spice blend; it is that good.

I used a ‘4 cheese tortellini’ in this dish. Anything you like will probably work fine. Well maybe not Gorgonzola and anchovies tortellini, that might be a bit strong.

Potato Gnocchi, Sausage and Spinach

This dish is a weeknight pantry/fridge raid with a package of shelf-stable gnocchi providing the starting point.

Potato Gnocchi, Sausage and Spinach
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs. Italian sweet sausage
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. Penzeys Mural Of Flavor (see note)
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. potato gnocchi
  • 1 6 oz. bag spinach, rinsed and spun
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place sausages and 1/2 cup water in a lidded skillet and heat over medium. Cook for 5-7 minutes; cook until internal temp reaches 160°F. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile heat a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the gnocchi according to the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
  3. Dump out excess water from the skillet and wipe skillet dry. Return skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions along with a pinch of kosher salt. Stir to coat and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrants. Add the red pepper flakes and spice blend. Stir to incorporate and bloom the spices.
  4. Add the spinach along with the reserved pasta water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. The spinach will wilt down to less than a cup in volume.
  5. While the spinach cooks slice the sausages into bite-size pieces.
  6. When the spinach is fully cooked add the sausages and gnoochi. Toss to combine. Cover and cook long enough to reheat sausages.
  7. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes:
Penzeys Mural Of Flavor is one of my favorite spice blends. If you don’t have it you could substitute 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp. ground coriander and 1/4 tsp. dried citrus peel.

I prefer to boil the potato gnocchi for a little longer than the package recommends. In my case the package said 2 minutes in boiling water. At that point they were warmed through but still a little dense for my taste. An extra minute made them a little lighter and less chewy.