Orecchiette with Spinach, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

This weeknight dinner recipe is simple enough that I managed to pull it together even on a night when I was just plain exhausted.

Orecchiette with Spinach, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 8 oz. orcchiette
  • 3 oz. fresh spinach, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1/2 tsp. dried chile flakes
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Put a large pot with 8-12 cups of water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking pan and place in the oven until browned and fragrant, 10-15 minutes. Give the pan a shake every 3-4 minutes. Transfer pan to a cool rack and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Transfer hazelnuts to a clean dish towel, gather up the ends and rub the nuts against the towel vigorously to remove the skins. When most of the skins have been removed chop on a cutting board or in a food processor.
  4. Cook pasta according to package instructions (mine said 11 minutes and that’s what I went with).
  5. While the pasta cooks heat butter in a large skillet over high heat until it begins to brown. Swirl pan periodically to move the butter about.
  6. Add spinach, hazelnuts and chile flakes to the pan; toss with butter and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. With luck your pasta will be ready when the spinach is well wilted. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with about a 1/4 cup of pasta water.
  8. Stir pasta into spinach and nuts. Heat until the pasta water has mostly evaporated, creating a light sauce.
  9. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Spoon into bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes:
I’ve never managed to remove all of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing with a towel. Some of the extra skin will flake off as you chop the nuts. Accept the chaos (or pick out the tiny skin pieces).

You can substitute another leafy green, such as Swiss chard or beet greens, for the spinach. You may want to trim off the longer, thicker parts of the stem on Swiss chard and chop it up fine before cooking. I’d avoid heartier greens such as kale or collards in this dish. They take longer to breakdown to an enjoyable texture in my opinion.

Chicken and Peppers with left-over Chinese takeout rice

Whenever we get a Chinese takeout order over $35 the restaurant adds a small order of white rice and a small order of over-steamed broccoli. The broccoli ends up in the compost pile however the rice usually ends up in the fridge for a couple of weeks before it is dumped in the trash as questionable.

We enjoyed Chinese takeout last Friday night so I knew the rice was “fresh”. So I crafted this recipe to make use of it along with some chicken breasts I had defrosted over the weekend.

Chicken and Peppers with left-over Chinese takeout rice
Servings: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, plus extra for drizzling at the end
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 chicken breast (about 1 lb.), cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil, divided
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into 3/4″ squares
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 3/4″ squares
  • 1 sm. container leftover Chinese takeout rice (or 2 cups day old plain white rice)
  • 1 bunch scallions, whites finely chopped and greens cut on the bias into 3/4″ pieces
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine soy sauce, vegetable oil, fish sauce, sesame oil, coriander, a pinch of kosher salt and 10 grinds of black pepper in a bowl. Added diced chicken. Use hands to coat chicken with marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat until shimmering. Added onions and peppers to the skillet; toss to coat in oil and evenly distribute. Ignore for 2 minutes. Toss or stir to redistribute. Ignore for another 2 minutes. Toss or stir to redistribute. Ignore for another minute. Edges should be lightly colored and onions should be opaque. Transfer to a bowl and cover; set aside.
  3. Add remaining oil to the skillet and return to the burner over high. When wisps of smoke start coming up from the oil add the marinaded chicken. Shake to evenly distribute and ignore for 5 minutes. Break up chicken pieces that may have clung to one another and toss to redistribute. Cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  4. While the chicken cooks microwave the rice for 1 minute just to take the chill off of it.
  5. After 9-10 minutes of total cooking time check temp on a largish chicken piece. If it is less than 160° continue cooking, checking every 30 seconds until you hit the mark. Once over 160° add the cooked vegetables along with the leftover rice. Stir to incorporate and cook for another 2 minutes to allow the rice to heat through.
  6. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and toasted sesame oil as desired. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve.

Notes:
When frying in a shallow skillet we try to use an inexpensive splatter screen to keep the walls from getting an oil bath.

Don’t want to get your hands extra dirty by mixing the chicken with the marinade? Toss the chicken in a zip-top bag, wash your hands, add the marinade ingredients, seal the bag and squish the chicken around until everything is well and rightly coated.

You can totally use all peanut oil in the recipe, no need to have both vegetable oil and peanut oil out. Both are handy when I cook and I was making it up as I go. I do prefer peanut oil for high heat frying.

Salsa Chickpeas

Necessity is the mother of blah, blah, blah. Or something along those lines. The end of daylight saving time has messed up my pool of both desire to do much after work and my inspiration. Faced with both I turned to the cupboard for a weeknight dinner this week and came up with the following. I can envision making this again.

Salsa Chickpeas
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 16 oz. jar of your favorite salsa
  • 2 15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the salsa, chickpeas and 1/2 a cup of water. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and partially cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Test flavor, adjust with salt and black pepper as needed. Serve over white rice.

Notes:
I used Newman’s Own Medium Salsa and Goya low-sodium chickpeas in this. We usually have both in the pantry.

Vegetarian Chili

Week night dinners often end up being some leftover protein from the weekend paired with something on the side. When we don’t host a Saturday night gathering though I have to come up with something. Yesterday I decided I had most of the stuff to make a decent chili for dinner. A quick stop at the store for a red pepper, sour cream and shredded cheese sealed the deal.

Chili, the meated variety, was probably the first thing I sat down and figured out how to make from scratch on my own. Over the years the recipe has changed a bit as I find something new or read another recipe or just want to mix it up. I went for a vegetarian version tonight because we’re trying to eat a bit healthier and chili is hearty enough to stand alone without meat.

Recipe under the cut